Skip to main content

Full text of "Fundamentals Of Ethics"

See other formats

ujgOUJ 64511 JS 










November 1933 








The title is a fair description of the nature and purpose 
of the book. The choice of subject matter and the arrange- 
ment of topics are the results of many years' experience in 
teaching undergraduates in American colleges, and repre- 
sent what seems to the author to be the minimum of an 
introductory course in Ethics what may properly be de- 
scribed as the fundamentals of the subject. 

An introductory course in ethics in the American college 
has come to have a double object and to fulfill a double 
function. Its primary purpose is doubtless practical. It has 
a unique place among the social sciences, in that it consti- 
tutes the one subject in which students are systematically 
trained in the understanding and evaluation of human con- 
duct or behavior in both its individual and social aspects. 
For this reason it has rightly come to include more and 
more the moral problems connected with the economic and 
institutional life of man. On the other hand, ethics is for 
many students their introductory course in philosophy for 
some their only course. Historically, ethics has always been 
a part of philosophy and is ordinarily taught by philosophers. 
It scarcely fulfills its function if it does not awake the 
student's mind to those more profound problems of human 
life called metaphysical, and does not stimulate him to 
philosophical thinking and study. It has long seemed to the 
writer that a course in ethics should serve both these ends, 
and an attempt to do so has been made in the present work. 

The division of the book into three parts follows naturally 
from this conception of the course. Part I, entitled Moral 
Theory, aims to present to the student the results of reflective 
thinking in morals and to make him acquainted with the 



fundamental ethical concepts and theories that have emerged. 
The method sometimes followed of beginning with what 
are called facts rather than theory; in other words, with 
the psychology and sociology of the moral life has its 
merits; but it has the defect of putting off too long the 
discussion of moral problems themselves, in which the be- 
ginner has a natural interest, and often dissipates that 
interest before the vital problems are reached. I am con- 
vinced that the method here followed is pedagogically the 
sounder, and I have never found any difficulty in securing 
the student's interest in ethical theory. It should be made 
sufficiently clear to him that only in this way can he approach 
intelligently the practical problems of the moral life. Chapter 
II is specifically designed to achieve this result. 

Part II, by far the longer portion of the book, is entitled 
Moral Practice. The object here is to make the student 
vitally aware of the moral problems of the modern world. 
Emphasis is put upon the ideas of rights, duties and justice, 
the object being to provide the student with clear working 
conceptions with which he may approach the vexed questions 
of our present economic and social life. The conception of 
human values is made central and laws and institutions are 
viewed as embodiments of these values. In the treatment 
of the ethical institutions of society, the teacher is always 
faced with the problem of choosing between a sketchy treat- 
ment of all our institutions or a more thorough handling of 
selected ones. Experience has taught me that the latter is 
the better method. I have, accordingly emphasized the basal 
institutions of Property and the Family. This limitation 
has made possible a more extended and detailed examination 
of special problems. 

Part III is entitled Moral Philosophy. Of all the questions 
raised by philosophy, those connected with morals are, I 
think, the most natural to the ordinary man. It is easy to 
live even to live an intellectual life of sorts without ever 


asking the kind of questions that arise out of the physical 
sciences. But once the student has been faced with the 
problem of obligation and of the good, even the most ordi- 
nary mind finds itself alive to philosophical problems. Moral 
philosophy, as T. H. Green recognized in his Prolegomena 
to Ethics, for a time fell into disrepute, but with the renewed 
interest in philosophy generally, this side of ethics is com- 
ing into the foreground again. I have found that it is the 
part of ethics which arouses most interest in my students. 
The modern student is critical and often even sceptical 
in morals. He demands that these more fundamental prob- 
lems shall not be ignored. 

The idea of Value is central throughout the work from 
the introductory chapter to the closing discussion of the 
relation of morals and religion. This procedure has a double 
justification. Ethics has come to be recognized as part of a 
general theory of value, and the more recent text-books 
very properly emphasize this aspect. On the other hand, 
it is generally agreed by all schools of philosophy that 
the central problem in modern thought is the place of 
values (including our moral values) in the world as re- 
vealed by the natural and physical sciences. I have con- 
fined myself here to the simplest notions and so arranged 
the material that this phase of the treatment may be em- 
phasized or not, as the teacher chooses. 

In the choice of what have seemed to me to be the 
fundamentals of ethics, it has been necessary to reduce to 
a minimum the psychological and sociological aspects that 
have bulked so large in some recent text-books. These 
aspects of the subject have not been ignored, but I have 
found it more useful to emphasize the relations of ethics 
to economics and law. In every case where psychology or 
anthropology have thrown light on the facts of the moral 
life these contributions have been utilized. In addition, care- 
fully selected books of reference make it possible for the 


student to read more widely along these lines. In general, 
I have found these aspects of ethics admirably adapted 
for assignments in outside work. The student is usually 
interested in following out the clues given in the discussions 
of the text, and investigations of this nature, being largely 
of a factual character, are usually entirely within his com- 

The list of references for further reading, to be found 
at the end of each chapter, have been selected with con- 
siderable care. They include references to other text-books 
and to books of a more or less popular character, but also 
to contributions of the more permanent and substantial 
sort. I have given a rather large number for two reasons. 
Frequently a student cannot secure a particular book in 
the library and it is desirable that sufficient alternatives 
should be available. In the second place, a large number 
of references makes it possible for the teacher to advise 
those which fit in with his own purposes. The few books 
starred in each list represent something of a minimum of 
reading. All are books suited to the ordinary student, but 
many of those not starred are of the same grade of difficulty. 

W. M. U. 
Hanover, New Hampshire, April 7, 1930 


PART I. MORAL THEORY ......... 3 

I. The Nature and Scope of gtbics > . 3 

II. Reflective Thinking in Morals . *. . 29 

III. Formalism in Ethics ...... 51 

IV. Happiness as Ultimate Value ... 73 
V. Tfte Ethic^ of Evolution . .v . . . 95 

VI. The Ethics of Self-Realization . . . 116 

VII. The Nature of Self-Realization . . . 135 


VIII. The System of Human Values ... 159 
IX. The Nature of Human Rights and 

Their Place in tthical Philosophy . 184 

u^cej^JEtliical and. Legal ..... 209 

...... 239 

XII. The Economic Life: Property 

XIII. The Sex Life: The Family . . . . 287 

XIV. Character Values: The Virtues 

PART III. MORAL PHILOSOPlTT 7-r-T~^~~~. '. . 35* 

XV. The Postulate^ nf Mnrn]fty 353 

XVI. The Prnl?lejp nf lUnnl FnnTrlrrlrr . . 362 

XVII. the Freedom _ of JhgJVVni ^ . ... 394 

XVIII. Moral Prngrp^ ** * KliVf *H. ^c^ a 

Fact ! [ ! ! 7 . x . . . . 42 
XIKX'Morality and Religion, ..... (^447 

INDEX ................ 473 




On entering upon the study of any subject it is only 
natural that one should ask: What is its use? What is its 
value? This is an entirely proper question. There is also no 
better way of getting a preliminary notion or definition of a 
subject. Few things in this world are done without some 
purpose; it is only human that the student should ask: What 
is the good of the study to which he devotes his time. 

What is the good of mathematics? It teaches us how to 
calculate and measure. Why do we study physics, biology, 
economics? Every one of these "sciences" or fields of knowl- 
edge is related directly to certain well-recognized fields of 
human action to the making of machines of some kind, to 
the care and cure of living organisms, as in medicine, or to 
the organization and direction of human activities of ex- 
change, banking, etc.; and it is in the first instance because 
of relations of utility of this kind that the student makes 
choice of his respective studies. It is true that there is what 
we call pure science, knowledge for its own sake and it is 
a well-recognized fact not only that such knowledge is of 
intrinsic worth, but also that it is largely in the pursuit of it 
that the practical applications of science have been dis- 
covered. Nevertheless, it is the practical in knowledge that 
first attracts our interest, and in this respect ethics is no 
exception to the general rule. 

Why then do we study ethics? The simplest answer is: 
It tells us how to act rightly; what actions are right or 
wrong, good or bad. We frequently find ethics defined as 


the science which deals with conduct in so far as this is 
considered right or wrong, good or bad. 

Now it needs no argument to show that if there is a study 
that tells us how to act rightly, it is a very important one. 
If there is a "science," or field of human knowledge, that 
can tell us what actions are right or wrong, what are good 
or bad, it must take an important place in our scheme of 
human knowledge and in any system of education. In the 
first place, it is clear, on the slightest reflection, that the 
most important thing to know in this world and in this 
life, is what is good and what is bad. We all recognize 
that there are right and wrong ways of doing things. There 
is, for instance, a right way and a wrong way of building 
a bridge, a right way and a wrong way of performing a 
surgical operation, right ways and wrong ways of doing 
business, of carrying on economic operations. What is good 
and what is bad in these cases is relatively simple. A good 
bridge is one that is safe for travel. A good operation is 
one that saves a human life or restores an organ to its 
normal functioning. Good business practice is that which 
shows a profit. There are right and wrong ways of doing 
all these things and it is important that engineer, surgeon, 
and merchant should learn these ways. But all these things 
have to do with the means or instruments of life, and it is 
also important to know what are the right ends. It is pos- 
sible for a man to know all about means to accomplish ends 
but have very little sense/ for the ends of life themselves. 
It is possible for a man to be very keen in ^Business, or his 
technical field, but be very stupid about the values of life. 
In other words there are also right and wrong ways of 
doing things in the larger relations of life, in the business 
of living itself, and it is with these that ethics is concerned. 

The obligation of being intelligent is almost the first 
law of our modern life and the place of all places where it 


is in chief demand is in the world of human and moral 

The importance of knowing what is good and what is bad 
in human behavior or action would scarcely be denied by 
any one. If there is a "science" that can tell us this it is 
clearly a very important field of human knowledge and a 
very practical field of study. There are those, it must be 
admitted, who do not share this opinion. 

There are some who deny the importance of ethics be- 
cause they think that men already know without any 
special knowledge, what is good or bad, right or wrong. 
The "healthy human understanding" tells us clearly 
enough what/ we ought to do. The difficulty is not lack of 
knowledge but lack of good will. To such it is merely 
necessary to point to the genuine moral confusion of our 
time. In the kaleidoscopic changes of the modern world 
men are often honestly at sea as to what is right and wrong. 
Again, it is often denied that there is actually any such 
field of knowledge as a science of morals. Men quote the 
famous words, "there's nothing good or bad but thinking 
makes it so", meaning thereby that moral distinctions are 
matters of personal feeling or of group/ opinion, and lack 
entirely that objectivity that belongs to knowledge. This 
subjectivism or scepticism, as it is often called, would, in- 
deed, if justified, make impossible any "science" of ethics*. 
Whether ethics is a science is a question that must be exr 
amined, as must indeed the whole problem of moral scepti- 
cism; here we need only say that practically there is little 
doubt that there is moral knowledge of some sort, that 
truth may be discovered in the field of morals and that it 
may be organized and imparted to others. To doubt this 
seems to be one of those gratuitous cases /of scepticism, 
of doubt for doubt's sake, which, while a useful device in 
philosophical study, is a "silly theory" in practical life. 



The definition of ethics arises then strictly out of its 
use or value as a study. ^The simplest definition is in a sense 
the best. Ethics is the science that deals with conduct in 
so far as, it is considered right or wrong, good or bad. 

The meaning of these terms, right and wrong, good and 
bad we understand in a sense immediately just as we un- 
derstand the terms/ hot and cold, true and false. I do not 
mean, of course, that we necessarily know immediately 
what things are good and bad, what actions are right and 
wrong, but that the ideas or notions themselves are imme- 
diately understandable. Just what things are hot and cold 
we learn only by experience. What is true or false we 
learn only by certain methods of verification or testing. 
-But the meaning of the terms is in a sense given to/ us 
immediately. The same seems to be true of the terms good 
and bad, right and wrong. But this does not mean that we 
can not make the meanings of these terms clearer to our- 
selves by definition. Definition does not create meanings, 
but makes the meanings more definite. Let us start out 
then by trying to distinguish between these three kinds of 
terms. We may say that terms like hot and cold have to 
do with the qualities of things; true and false with the 
reasons or causes, of things; good and bad with the values 
of things. 1 Ethics then is the study which deals with the 
values of things/ 

Just what this distinction means may be made clear by 
considering two types of questions which we are always 
asking from childhood up. We wish to know the "how" of 
a thing and the "why" of a thing, the "cause" of a thing 
and the "good" of a thing. 

The child wonders how it is the fire burns, why the 
wheels of a watch go round, why his stomach hurts. This 
"wonder" or curiosity is the beginning of all/investigation 


and ends in what we call knowledge or science. Newton, we 
are told, asked why the apple falls to the ground and 
discovered as his answer the "law" of gravitation. Scientists 
asked why it is that two rays of light, coming from objects 
at different distances, take the same time, and the complete 
answer to that question led to the formulation of the theory 
of relativity by Einstein, which involved not only a reinter- 
pretation of gravitation, but a reconstruction of our notions 
of space and time themselves. When science is developed, it 
consists of a body of answers to/certain general questions of 
this sort. Science is thus systematized explaining. 

But just as the child, and all of us, are constantly asking 
the why of things, so we are constantly asking the where- 
fore. What is the good of this? The child, for instance, wants 
to know what is the good of brushing his teeth, of learning 
arithmetic or grammar. What's the good of poetry? These 
questions, and others like them, we continue to ask all our 
life. And our wondering here is the beginning of an investi- 
gation which ends also in a certain body of knowledge and 
understanding which/ we may describe as systematized valu- 
ing. The child may ask: what's the good of going to school, 
or of going to church and he may see no good in either. But 
he may come to see good in both, to see what we call reasons 
for doing these things; and the value of the particular act 
becomes part of a larger scheme of life and life's values of 
systematized valuing. He .may come to see good in poetry 
and that involves seeing the relation of what we call esthetic 
values to other values of life, such as the practical ancj/the 

But the mind may go even further than this in its thought 
about the values of things and actions. Even the child asks: 
What's the good of being good? and in that question is 
involved the ultimate problem of ethics. For he is asking 
why there should be any distinction between good and bad 
at all. An answer to that question would take him to the 


very heart of ethical theory. Or he may, when he is a little 
older, ask; what's the good ot~4t all anyway? He is then 
wondering whether there is any ultimate meaning/or value 
to lifeat all and the world in which he finds himself. He is 
thus led from ethics into still more ultimate questions which 
we call philosophical or metaphysical. 


Ethics is then, in the last anaylsis, just the science of 
systematized valuing; or, otherwise expressed, the valuing 
activity of man made systematic. 

This second definition raises certain fundamental prob- 
lems which must at least be touched upon in this introduc- 
tory chapter. It will be well to state them first before taking 
them up in detail. The first of these is expressed in the ques- 
tion:/ Is this systematized valuing which we have described, 
properly termed science? If so, how is it related to that 
process of systematized explaining to which we ordinarily 
attach the name of "science"? In the second place we must 
seek to form some clear notion, in a preliminary way at least, 
of what value is, of what it is that makes an object good or 
bad, what it is that makes things and acts have or not have 
value. Finally we shall do well to ask whether ethics is 
coextensive with the field of systematized valuing, as we 
have suggested/or only one of a number of such sciences. 

The distinction we have just made between the explaining 
and the valuing side of man's nature and intelligence is an 
important one. If not an absolute distinction as surely it is 
not it is a relative difference of such significance that to 
confuse the two is to confuse many issues, both in science 
and in philosophy. The two types of questions what is the 
cause of a thing, and what is the good of a thing are, in the 
first instance at least, so different that the answer to one 
question is of a different type from the answer to the other. 

For one thing, to answer the first of these questions does 


not in the least answer the second. Thus, to tell how a human 
custom, or any form of conduct, came into being does not 
necessarily tell the good or bad of it. The causes which first 
led to the wearing of clothes, or any other human practice, 
do not at all correspond with the reasons for wearing them 
now. In general, it may be said that explaining or under- 
standing a thing by carrying it/back to its causes and origins 
is quite different from explaining or understanding it by 
seeing its purpose or end, or in other words, its value. 


The distinction we have attempted to make here has been 
constantly recognized in the history of philosophic thought, 
and special names have been given to these two types of 
thinking and of knowledge. A distinction of long standing is 
that between descriptive and normative sciences. 

By descriptive science is understood that type of knowl- 
edge which we have characterized as systematized explain- 
ing. The idea underlying this designation is that the object/ 
of knowledge in this field is ultimately to know what a thing 
really is. But we can know the "what" of a thing only by 
discovering its relations to other things, and one of the most 
important of these relations is that of cause and effect. It is 
for this reason that science has sometimes been described as 
the discovery of the causes of things. 

By normative science, on the other hand, is understood 
something quite different. It is, as we have said, systematized 
valuing. By discovering the values of things, more especially 
the relative values of things, we alsc/ discover what ought 
to be as well as what merely is. For if we find out that one 
thing is better than another, we also discover that in general 
that thing ought to be rather than the other. The forms of 
conduct or behavior which have this character of oughtness 
are then called standards or norms. Thus to define ethics as 
the science of relative values is really at the same time to 


define it as a normative science, and to define it as a norma- 
tive science is to define it as a sciencp/of values. 

The distinction here made is sometimes confused by the 
fact that the term norm is also used in the merely descrip- 
tive or natural sciences. But when so used it has a quite 
different meaning. In a merely descriptive science a norm 
is simply the usual or average in form, in size, or function. 
Thus in biology we speak of the members of a species vary- 
ing about a norm. In psychology we speak of norms of 
reaction to stimuli, etc., and in mental testing we speak of 
what is normal for a child of such and such an age/ Fluctua- 
tions from the normal, in this sense, constantly occur, and 
when within moderate limits are still considered normal; 
but when they exceed such limits they gradually pass into 
the abnormal. .Abnormal psychology is a study of the varia- 
tion from the average, in thought, feeling, and volition, of 
such a degree and character as to involve non-adaptation or 
mal-adjustment of the individual. 

This is, of course, a proper use of the term norm in such 
sciences as biology and psychology but it is not the proper 
use in fields like those of ethics or law. In the former case 
the nornyis still merely a descripton of what is. There is no 
ought in it except in the sense that one might say that what 
usually is ought to be. Some people do indeed imply this in 
their use of the term norm, but without real justification. 
They identify the "natural" with the normal, as for instance 
when they think of the natural and normal expression of the 
sex instinct as the same thing. Such use suffers, however, 
from a serious ambiguity in the term natural. What is 
natural on one stage of development may be unnatural and 
abnormal on another/ But the confusion of thought goes 
much deeper than this. The variations from the norm, in the 
merely descriptive sense, are as much a part of nature as the 
norm itself, the abnormal is as much a part of nature as the 


It seems clear then that a norm of conduct or behavior, as 
used in ethics, is something quite different from a norm in a 
descriptive science such as biology or psychology. This dif- 
ference is sometimes expressed in the following way. A norm, 
in the ethical sense, is defined as any principle which con-, 
trols action through thought or emotion. Now a norm is a 
principle that controls action. It also controls it through 
thought and emotion. No principle can be grasped except 
through thought and no thought passes into action except 
through* feeling. But this does not go to the heart of the 
matter. That which makes a principle a norm is that it con- 
trols action through consciousness of value and through the 
sense of obligation or "ought" that arises from this con- 
sciousness of value. 

With this it is clear also that a norm is something very 
much more than a description. In a/sense it is a description 
also of the morally good and the humanly valuable. As 
such, it purports to give us a true account of matter of 
fact of what is right and what is wrong. But a norm or 
standard is more than a mere description of the matter of 
fact of the moral life; it is at the same time a delineation of 
an ideal. A standard is a standard precisely because it is an 
ideal that is meant to be realized or carried out in conduct. 
A norm is a norm just because it tells us whajfc ought to be 
rather than merely that which always actually is. 

It js^sqnielimes said that the descriptive sciences deal with 
facts, the normative sciences with values. This is at best 
a very crude way of speaking. Are not values facts? Is not 
a norm as much a part of the objective world as a law? 
Most certainly. The law of gravitation is as much a part of 
reality as the stones and planets which the law "controls". 
A norm is as much a part of reality as the acts, the apprecia- 
tions and the judgments it determines. The significant point 
is/ that both "law" and "norm" are facts in a somewhat dif- 
ferent sense from the stones and stars or from the acts and 


the emotions which they control. Just what this difference is 
and the implications of the difference are problems of 
philosophy and will demand our consideration in a later con- 
nection (Chapter XV). Here the important point is to recog- 
nize that to establish a norm is to establish a truth also, or a 
form of knowledge. If I come to learn that one act is better 
than another, that men have rights to certain things and 
ought to have themythat is knowledge (and not mere 
opinion) just as much as learning the laws of nature is 


Is then knowledge of the preceding kind really science? 
It is often denied that ethics is a science at all and a good 
deal of breath has been wasted in arguing the question. As 
is often the case in such disputes, the question is largely, 
although not wholly, verbal; it depends to a large extent on 
our definition of science. 

Few would deny that ethics contains knowledge, or that 
it is knowledge of a systematized kind. If science befdefined 
as systematized knowledge, then there is no question that 
ethics is a science. But science is sometimes defined in ways 
that would exclude ethics. It is sometimes limited to explain- 
ing or giving the causes of things and sometimes confined to 
some particular method such as that of verification by ex- 
periment. But it is important to note that if we define it in 
the first way we exclude such important sciences as mathe- 
matics and logic which do not deal with causes at all, but 
with entirely different kinds of relations. Indeed both these 
sciences are often classified as normative. If, on/the other 
hand, we confine science to such knowledge as admits of 
verification by experiment, we must again exclude other vast 
fields of systematized knowledge such as we find in the 
economic and social sciences. In general it may be said that 
the narrower views of science, so characteristic of the latter 


part of the nineteenth century, are passing out and science 
is recovering its old meaning of systematized knowledge. In 
this broader meaning of the term ethics may certainly be 
called a science. 


The distinction between the normative and/the descrip- 
tive, between what is and what ought to be between fact 
and value is clear enough. We must now try to determine 
their relations and the relations between the two types of 
knowledge or science. The relation is not easy to define 
clearly and satisfactorily. Perhaps we may get at it indirectly 
at first by seeing what descriptive sciences ethics calls on 
most for help, with which it is most closely related. 

physics and chemistry-<are most important sciences. It is 
onlyby the knowledge which we get from them that we can 
control a large part of our/ environment and physical things 
may be made useful to man. But we should hardly call on 
them to any extent to enable us either to understand or 
evaluate human conduct. It is true that man's behavior is 
to a degree dependent upon chemical processes in the human 
body. If it is possible to show that the failure to function 
properly of a gland in the body has resulted in a weakening 
of what we call the moral sense, it is of the utmost impor- 
tance to know that fact and a knowledge of the chemistry 
of gland secretions may enable us^to effect a change. But no 
such knowledge can tell us the slightest thing about the 
nature or meaning of the moral sense thus conditioned, or of 
the good or bad of the moral conduct to which the moral 
sense refers. 

The biologicaL&eiences are much closer to the moral, for 
the reason that they are concerned with life and the behavior 
of living organisms. Man is a living organism and the simple 
instincts or drives which are the primary conditions of his 
behavior are understandable first of all in relation to the 


survival and furtherance of the biological life. So important 
is this relation that there have been ethical thinkers who 
have sought to explain the origin and development of morals 
in biological causes, as well as to define the nature of the 
good merely in biological terms. In this they are, as we shall 
see, quite wrong, but it remains true that ethics has learned 
much from biology. Whatever else man is, he is also an 
animal with a body. Large fields of morals, such for instance 
as sexual morals, must have the biological functions con- 
stantly in mind. It is true that, as; Professor Conklin, the 
biologist, has pointed out, direct analogies from animals to 
men lead to all kinds of fallacies and illusions. But the fact 
that the moral life of man is biologically conditioned can not 
be denied. The intimate relation between ethics and biology 
can be seen from the fact, that if any one should propose 
an ideal of conduct that led progressively to the organic 
deterioration and death of the human species, we should feel 
compelled forthwith to call it wrong. 

Still closer are the relations of ethics to such descriptive, 
although humanistic, sciences as psychology and anthro- 
pology^ (or the social sciences in general). There are many 
points at which ethics appeals to psychology in matters of 
fact and to sociology for knowledge of the social structure 
of the society of which ethical institutions are a part. Thus 
ethical thinkers have at times said many things about human 
nature and its motives which have turned out to be psycho- 
logically untrue. They have said that man is always con- 
sciously seeking pleasure. They have said that man has 
innate or inborn ideas or sentiments of right and wrong. 
They have based many of their reasonings on the assump- 
tion that manyhas certain specific instincts, such for instance 
as an instinct for monogamy or against incest. All such 
statements of psychological matter of fact are essentially 
matters for psychology and subject to the revision of the 
psychologist. The same situation is evident in connection 


with a science such as anthropology. Ethical thinkers have 
at times said many things about the primitive institutions 
and forms of life which have also turned out to be untrue. 
They have based ethical arguments and theories on assump- 
tions regarding matter of fact that could not be maintained. 
In such , fields as the ethics of property and of the family, 
ethics must constantly look to the anthropologist for his 
facts, and in all cases where factual matters are involved its 
statements are subject to revision on his part. In general it 
may be said that the uses of psychology and anthropology to 
the moralist are in confirming and correcting his knowledge 
of human nature, in broadening and deepening his insight 
into conduct or behavior, both individual and social. 

It is clear then that ethics can not get along without the 
use of the sciences of life and mind; the entire /question is 
how it shall use them. One way often proposed is to base 
ethics on these sciences or to make it but a part of them. 
There have been those who have looked upon ethics as 
merely a chapter in biology or psychology or anthropology 
as the case may be. This is coming to be recognized as a 
wrong conception. Ethics has, we shall see, its own facts and 
its own problems, and to a degree its own methods and pro- 
cedure. To put the situation briefly and in the most general 
terms, all these sciences may help us to understand/how 
fwhat we call the good and evil tendencies of man have come 
about, but in themselves they are incompetent to furnish 
any reasons why what we call the good is preferable to what 
we call evil. The causes of a thing are not to be identified 
with the reasons for it. 

The true way of using the sciences of life and mind in 
ethics has already been suggested in the illustrations given. 
These sciences have given us systematized bodies of knowl- 
edge about the biological, the social and the psychological 
life of man. Ethics seeks to determine what is the? "good 
life" for man, what forms of behavior are favorable or 


inimical to that life. But we can not make true statements 
about the values of life if our propositions about the facts of 
life are false. In other words, ethics seeks to determine what 
ought to be, but it can do so only on the basis of adequate 
knowledge of what is. 


The idea of value is the basal concept of ethics. As we 
shall see presently, one of the most important questions of 
ethical^theory is just this: what makes things good or bad 
wherein value, positive or negative, ultimately consists. Let 
us for the moment merely examine the general idea of value 
as used in all the value sciences. 

The simplest and most general notion with which almost 
everybody begins is that value is that which satisfies human 
desire. All things that satisfy human desire have value, or 
are good. This we may call the first definition of value. 

This definition of value is simple, clear and intelligible 
so far as it goes. In a simple or primitive community the 
good or value of/any object or action is immediately under- 
stood and readily explained. The South Sea Islander knows 
what is the good of fishing. It is to satisfy his hunger. He 
knows what is the good of climbing for milk cocoanuts; it is 
to quench his thirst. He knows what is the good of sacrificing 
to the gods. It brings rain or makes him victorious over his 
enemies. He knows what is the good of everything he does. 
It is to satisfy his desires and to preserve his life and that 
of his tribe. 

, t If the savage could rise to the abstract level/of conceptual 
definition, he would undoubtedly define value as anything 
that satisfies human desires. But even the primitive prob- 
ably sees a bit deeper than this. These things satisfy his 
desires, but they also preserve his life and that of his tribe. 
Even he is conscious of a relation between satisfaction of 


desire and the preservation and furtherance of life. Again, 
if he could use abstract language, he would in all probability 
say that the good is that which furthers life, the bad that 
which arrests or hinders it. In any case, we see the relation 
of/value to life, a relation which has led to the formulation 
of what we may call our second definition of value as any- 
thing that furthers or conserves life. From this point of 
view, value may be defined as "a vital phenomenon appear- 
ing in a psychological form." 

This second definition of value is also clear and intelli- 
gible as far as it goes. But, like the first, it also does not go 
far enough. It is an admirable definition of value for primi- 
tive forms of life. It is easy to see what is good in the world 
of animal life. It may be described almost completely in 
terms of adjustment to environment and consequent sur- 
vival; value here is essentially survival value. It is almost 
as easy to see what is good and what is bad behavior in 
the case of primitive man, because his ends are limited and 
his aims narrow. Looking back today, we may see that in 
the main his customs and folk-ways correspond to the con- 
ditions of biological life, and have what we call survival 
value. Even his sacrifice to the gods, while in itself unable 
to bring him rain or make him victorious over his enemies, 
may have had a secondary value of consolidating the tribe 
and thus making it more able to survive. But such a con- 
ception of value is wholly inadequate when we come to 
complex civilizations such as our own. Men's wants are 
much more numerous and complex; the aims they set them- 
selves are often most comprehensive and remote. It becomes 
extremely difficult to see the value of the actions they per- 
form and of the knowledge they acquire in terms of such 
simple definitions. We may say, to start with, that anything 
is good that conserves or enhances life, but we soon find 
that we are compelled, like Aristotle, to distinguish between 
mere life, or living as such, and the "good life," or living 


well; that life is not necessarily a good in itself, but gets 
its value rather from that which living realizes. 

Ethical thinkers have, in the main, felt that such a line 
of thought is inevitable, and the further developments of 
our study will show, I think, that this is so. In that case 
we are driven to a third definition of 7 value, namely, that 
alone is ultimately and intrinsically Valuable that leads to 
the development of selves, or to selj -realization. In the be- 
ginning it appears that whatever satisfies desire is a good 
or value. But we find on closer examination that our wants 
and desires must themselves in turn be valued in terms of 
their relation to the survival and enhancement of life. Life 
itself is, however, not intrinsically valuable, but in turn gets 
its value from the kind of life it is. Precisely what is the 
good life for man is, of course, the fundamental problem of 
ethics, and we do not propose to attempt to solve it in the 
Introduction. Even at this point it is clear, however, that 
value for man must go beyond the concepts of satisfaction 
of desire and organic welfare. Whatever else men are, they 
are persons or selves and no adequate conception of human 
value can be formed without including the concept of self- 
realization. The "human standard of value is," as J. A. Hob- 
son says in considering economics from this point of view, 
"to value every act of production and consumption with 
regard to the aggregate effect on the life and the character 
of the agents. 7 ' (Italics mine.) 

Ethics is the science of critical evaluation or of systema- 
tized valuing. In carrying out this task we must make use 
of these different conceptions or definitions of value. 

Value in the first place is that which satisfies any want 
or desire. But with reflection we come to evaluate the desires 
themselves. Thus, from one point of view, grain distilled 
into whiskey is a good and has economic value. It satisfies 
human desire and a social want. But we may question the 
good of the desire and the value of the demand. From the 


standpoint of our second definition of value, grain thus used 
may conceivably have a negative value, or at least have 
less value than when turned into flour and bread. This does 
not mean that the grain turned into whiskey does not have 
economic value, in the sense of price. It may indeed have 
a higher price than bread, because of the greater demand. 
It means simply that our judgments of value in terms of 
the first conception may require revision in terms of the 
second. Still more is this clear when we bring in the third 
conception or definition of value when in other words 
we consider not only the biological life and organic welfare, 
but also the character of the agents and the life, individual 
and social, in which that character is developed and formed. 

A second fundamental distinction is necessary in all criti- 
cal or systematized evaluation of objects and actions, namely 
between value as instrumental and value as immediate and 
intrinsic. A great number of things in the world are not 
valuable in themselves, but only because they are means 
for the realization of other ends or values. In the preceding 
illustration, the grain has value only as a means to life or 
to the satisfaction of certain wants or desires. Means are 
only valuable with the actual value attributed to their real 
ends, and this attribution, if it is to be valid, always in- 
volves a situation in which the end-value is directly and 
immediately, experienced. As contrasted with instrumental 
value, we may define intrinsic value in the following way. 
An intrinsic value is not merely one of the means of living 
well, but part of the actual content of the good life, or 
rather one aspect of the nature or character of the good 
life itself. 

This distinction is of the utmost importance in .the study 
of the relations of ethics to other value sciences such as 
economics and jurisprudence. In general it may be said 
that the latter deal only with instrumental values, ethics 
being concerned with intrinsic as well as instrumental. To 


a more detailed study of the relation of these fields we 
must now turn. 


We defined ethics first as the science which deals with 
conduct (or behavior) in so far as this is considered good 
or bad, right or wrong. In developing the meaning of the 
terms good and bad, right and wrong, we were led to the 
further conception of ethics as the science of systematized 
valuing. This conception of ethics gives it a very wide scope; 
it makes it coextensive with the entire valuing side of life. 

But is not the field of ethics actually much narrower? 
Undoubtedly it is in the minds of most people. Morality is 
thought of as being but a part of life, and the goods or 
values dealt with in ethics but a part of a much larger field 
including other values, such as economic, esthetic, etc. 
Now there is certainly a sense in which this is true. We can 
indeed study the production, exchange, and consumption of 
wealth in economics, without explicit reference to these 
activities as forms of conduct or behavior to be judged 
ethically; but in so far as they are conduct and behavior, 
they must in the last analysis be judged morally also. We 
may study the activities of the production and enjoyment 
of objects of beauty without passing moral judgments on 
these as forms of conduct, but in the last analysis these 
must be considered from the standpoint of conduct also. 
In a certain sense, then, ethics must include these activities 
also. Matthew Arnold expressed the wide scope of ethics 
when he said "conduct is three fourths of life." In reality 
he was just one fourth short in his calculation. In a very 
real sense conduct is the whole of life. 

But while this is true in a general way and in the sense 
indicated here there are nevertheless certain well-defined 
differences between ethics and other value sciences, as well 


as very close relationships which it is important to make 
clear. In developing this point I have chosen two other 
fields of knowledge which deal with values and norms, 
namely the fields of economics and law. 

It is clear that these two subjects have a much closer 
relation to ethics than the descriptive sciences, even of 
biology and psychology. In the case of the latter their 
connection with ethics, while real and important, is never- 
theless indirect. At no point can we pass directly from a 
description or explanation of human conduct or behavior 
to its evaluation. At no point are the problems of ethics 
the same as those of these sciences. The latter can at most 
help us to understand the behavior we are to evaluate. In 
the case of the sciences now under consideration, the situa- 
tion is quite different. The reason for this is that they too, 
in their own way and in their own range, are trying to 
find out right ways of doing things. They too deal with 
goods or values, and in the last analysis have a normative 
purpose and a normative element in their method. The 
entire object of economics, from the practical point of view, 
is to find out the good or right ways of producing, distrib- 
uting and using consumable goods or wealth. T^ejobjecL-Of 
law is_to determine, within its specific field, what actions 
are right and what are wrong, and it is the task of juris- 
prudence to find out the basis or reason for the laws. 

Economics has often been treated (and is still treated 
by some) as though it were independent of ethics. But 
opinion on this subject has radically changed in recent 
years. They are, as President (Emeritus) Hadley of Yale 
wrote, "no longer regarded as independent sciences." It is 
pointed out by him and many other economists, that the 
morals of a people are at once the basis and consequence of 
its economic activity. The degree to which changes in eco- 
nomic conditions and values modify our ethical institutions 
and judgments has become clear to all since Karl Marx 


set in motion a long line of historical investigations through 
his doctrine of "economic determinism." On the other hand, 
it has become equally clear that the morals of a people are 
in a real sense the basis of its economic activity. The eco- 
nomics of a capitalistic society presupposes the institution of 
private property as an ethical good. In general, economic 
motives are largely the result of a people's ethics. "The 
attempt to study either of these subjects without reference 
to the other is, therefore, largely a thing of the past." * 

But this historical relation between the two really cor- 
responds to a more inner or logical relation. Each requires 
the other for its understanding, but from a more ultimate 
point of view economics must be said to depend upon and 
presuppose ethics. In showing this relation we may first 
make use of our distinction between instrumental and in- 
trinsic values. Economics deals only with instrumental 
values. In the illustration given, the wheat, which may be 
turned either into bread or whiskey, has no intrinsic value. 
The instrinsic value is found in the bodily values of satis- 
faction of hunger, which may again be instrumental to other 
values of human life. The relative values of the bread or 
the whiskey are again determined by more intrinsic values 
or disvalues to the production of which they are instru- 

The dependence of economics on ethics may be seen in 
yet another way. Like every other science, economics pro- 
ceeds upon certain assumptions or postulates. It assumes, 
for one thing, that wealth, or consumable goods, is a good 
or value, and proceeds then to study the laws of production 
and distribution of wealth. It is clear, however, that such 
an assumption is open to revision from the standpoint of 
ethics. It is possible to conceive an economic form of life 
in which "wealth accumulates and men decay." In such a 

1 Article o" Economics in Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology. 


society wealth would cease to be a good in any but the 
limited sense of economics. Again, economics assumes the 
acquistive impulse and the value of that impulse, and the 
validity of its principles or laws stands or falls with that 
assumption. It investigates merely the ways and means by 
which the ends set by that impulse or instinct are realized. 
In general, we may say that economics is a merely hypo- 
thetical science and is the result of an abstraction from the 
other motives and values of men. Economic good requires 
then to be related again to other goods, and this leads over 
into ethics. 

This relation of economics to ethics is increasingly real- 
ized by economic writers themselves. "Present-day eco- 
nomics," an economist has recently written, "is not altogether 
content to remain a science of 'what is.' The current 
emphasis is less didactic and more social in character. 
The tendency now is in the direction of re-establishing a 
philosophy of economics. And by this I mean a search for 
the ultimates of human life in so far as these can be dis- 
covered within the limits of the economic process." l 


The relation of morals to law and of ethics to the science 
of law or jurisprudence, is somewhat similar; law and juris- 
prudence presuppose ethics. 

That law is derivative from morals may be seen in the 
historical relations of the two fields. Law in general is codi- 
fied custom and customs are the mores or morals of a people. 
In the Anglo-Saxon legal system, for instance, English com- 
mon law is the basis of statute or civil law and this common 
law, or unwritten law, is essentially moral in character. In 
general, development is from custom to codified law and 
from law to reflective morality, the reflective morality con- 

1 E. W. Goodhue, Economics as Social Philosophy, International Journal 
of Ethics, Vol. XXXVI, No. i. 


sisting partly in the determination of the reasons of custom 
and law. 

But the relation of law to morals is not only historical; 
it is also logical. This logical relation may be seen at two 
points. In the first place, all the primary principles or norms 
of law go back to and presuppose moral norms. Thus laws 
protecting life, property, etc., all assume certain rights or 
claims that are essentially moral in character. Even more 
derivative laws, of a more or less technical character, may 
all be carried back to moral norms. Thus law has been 
defined by many jurists as "the sum of conditions necessary 
for the maintenance of society", or as "the minimum of 
moral performance and disposition required of members of 
society." In short law may be defined as the ethical mini- 

This characteristic of law has been recognized by Judge 
Benjamin N. Cardoza when he says that "legal concepts, 
when divorced from ethics, tend to become tyrannical and 
fruitful parents of injustice." This aspect of the situation 
brings out the second point at which it may be seen that 
law presupposes ethics. Justice, in the merely legal sense, 
often tends, momentarily at least, to develop more or less 
independently of ethics, to become merely the impartial 
administration of law irrespective of the ultimate relation 
of law to human welfare. Justice in the narrow sense must 
then be supplemented by equity or by justice in the ethical 

Legal justice then often comes into conflict with ethical 
justice, some of which conflicts will appear when we come 
to the study of justice; but when it does so conflict the 
ultimate court of appeal is ethics. T^iis situation has been 
well put by Pollock. 1 "Legal justice^Tie~writes, "aims at 

^Jurisprudence, Chap. II, 31. 


realizing moral justice within its range and its strength 
largely consists in the feeling that this is so." The strength 
of the law rests upon the acknowledgment of public opinion 
that it embodies a minimum of moral right. 

This statement of Pollock brings out clearly the second 
point at which the dependence of law upon ethics may be 
clearly seen. Acknowledgment of the law and its authority, 
by the subjects of the law, follows either upon the power- 
lessness of the subject, or upon the moral acceptance of 
the justice of the law. In the first case, law would be merely 
the tyranny of irrational force; in the second case it gets 
its validity from ethics. 


Thus far we have considered ethics as one among other 
fields of knowledge. We have called it science in that broader 
sense which defines science as any body of ordered or sys- 
tematized knowledge. But ethics has always been considered 
a part of philosophy and is still carried on by philosophers 
and taught as one of the subjects in the department of 
philosophy. This is precisely as it should be, and in making 
the reasons for that statement clear, we shall be able to 
determine the relation of ethics to philosophy. 

In general it may be said that the distinction between 
philosophy and science, between philosophical and other 
kinds of knowledge, is less popular than it was a few years 
ago. There are two chief reasons for this. Philosophers have 
themselves become more scientific. Not only do they find 
themselves forced to know more and more about the 
sciences, but they have learned a great deal from the 
methods of science that is useful in carrying on their own 
investigations. On the other hand, the sciences have become 
much more philosophical than they were in the nineteenth 
century. The more profound scientists, whether in the fields 
of physics, biology, or the sciences of mind and society, 


have increasingly been forced to take up questions that used 
to be relegated to the "metaphysician." 

The reasons for this lie in the nature of philosophy and 
of its relations to science. Philosophy has been defined 
in many different ways, but all these definitions contain 
in them two ideas that differentiate philosophy from the 
special sciences. William James expressed the first of these 
when he said of the philosopher that he is merely one who 
thinks a little more stubbornly and persistently than other 
people. The same idea has been expressed by the statement 
that the philosopher is one who "thinks things through." 
But when one comes to think things through, he finds that 
he must go out of and beyond his own special field into 
the larger relations of things. To think things through in- 
volves thinking things comprehensively in the words so 
often quoted, one must "see things steadily and see them 

It is this demand that drives the physicist beyond physics 
into philosophy and it is the same thing that forces the 
moralist out of ethics into metaphysics. For the ethical 
thinker the problem is to think the question of values 
through. The problems to which we referred earlier which 
rise even in the mind of the child and of the ordinary man 
become insistent for him. What is the good of being good? 
Why and whence any distinctions of value in the world at 
all? What's the good of it all? Is there any meaning or 
purpose in this world in which we struggle and try to 
achieve what we call the good? 

In the history of the race, answers to these questions 
have always been given by religion, and for this reason 
there has always been a close relation between morals and 
religion. In religion morality has not only found its sanc- 
tion, but its fundamental reason for being. The relation 
of morals to the religious view of the world is, therefore, 
one of the fundamental philosophical problems. But there 


are other problems of ethics of this fundamental philosoph- 
ical or metaphysical character. The moral life, if it is to 
be real or valid, seems to assume or postulate certain things. 
It seems difficult to see how the moral life can have very 
much meaning if moral agents have not what we call free 
will if they can not choose the good instead of the evil, 
the higher over the lesser good. It seems difficult to see 
how the moral life can have much significance unless moral 
distinctions are objective and real, are in some sense part 
of the nature of things, unless the moral values which men 
seek and achieve have a cosmic significance, unless, in other 
words, the moral order is in some sense part of the world 
order. Are these beliefs or postulates justified? No one can 
think through the problems of ethics without raising these 
questions. We certainly can't hope to answer them without 
taking into consideration the relation of man / to the uni- 
verse as a whole, or man's place in the cosmos. These are 
questions of philosophy or metaphysics and they must of 
necessity become the subject matter of the closing chapters 
of the book. 


The references for further reading, in this and succeeding chap- 
ters, will, in so far as possible, be put under headings correspond- 
ing to the main topics of each chapter. 

Those marked with an asterisk represent a minimum of re- 
quired reading and are, in general, less difficult than the others. 
Those unmarked are designed to enable the more serious student 
to go more deeply into the subject. 


* Encyclopaedia Britannica, Article on Ethics. 

* Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Article on Ethics. 

* F. Paulsen, System of Ethics, (trans.) Chap. I. 

* John Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. I. 
James H. Dunham, Principles of Ethics, Chap. I. 
H. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Bk. I, Chap. I. 
T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics. 

W. Wundt, The Principles of Morality, Vol. I, Introduction. 



* P^ncyclopaedia Britannica, Article on Value (W. M. Urban). 

* W. G. Everett, Moral Values, Chap. II. 
R. B. Perry, General Theory of Value. 

W. M. Urban, Valuation: Its Nature and Laws. 
W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God. 
John Laird, The Idea of Value, especially Chap. I, on Eco- 
nomic Values. 


* W. K. Wright, General Introduction to Ethics, Part II. 
John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, especially Chaps. 


* H. W. Dresser, Ethics in Theory and Application, Chap. IV. 


* Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, Article 

on Economics (J. H. Hadley). 
McKnight and Smith, Economics. 

* J. A. Hobson, Work and Wealthy A Human Valuation, 

Chap. I. Also Economics and Ethics. 
O. F. Boucke, The Development of Economics. 

* J. A. Leigh ton, The Individual and the Social Order, Chap. I. 
W. Wundt, Principles of Morality (trans.) Vol. II, Part TIT, 

Chap. IV. 

B. N. Cardozo, The Nature of The Judicial Process. 
Roscoe Pound, Introduction to the Philosophy of Law. 
G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, trans, by S. W. Dyde. 


* J. W. Hudson, The Truths We Live By, especially Part I. 
Walter Lippman, A Preface To Morals. 

* M. W. Calkins, The Good Man and The Good, Chap. XI. 

* E. S. Brightman, Introduction to Philosophy, Chaps. IX, X. 
Hastings Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. in, Chaps. 

i, ii. 

Warner Fite, Moral Philosophy. 



A common distinction in human knowledge is that be- 
tween fact and theory. In every science or systematized 
body of knowledge it is customary to distinguish between 
the facts and the theories based upon the facts. It will be 
well to begin our study of morals by considering that dis- 
tinction as it applies to ethics. 

The facts of ethics are our actual Ethical theory 
has to do with the reasons for them. It is natural to suppose 
that the morals of people, the facts of ethics, are the ways 
they do act, the folk-ways or mores. But this is not quite 
the case. The morals of a people are the ways they think 
they ought to act, in other words their judgments of good 
and bad, or of right and wrong. It is true that we often 
speak as though the morals of a man were the behavior 
itself. A man of low morals is one who docs certain things 
that fall below the standard or norm of conduct. But not 
only does the conduct itself proceed from ideas and judg- 
ments of good and bad, but the act or behavior has an 
ethical quality and significance only in relation to the 
standards or norms in terms of which it is judged. 

Ethical facts are then always judgments; ethical theories 
the reasons we give for these judgments. The fact has to 
do with the judgment of right and wrong; the theory with 
the question of why it is right or wrong. 

The first thing that strikes us in surveying the field of 
moral fact is the existence of well-established and well-de- 
fined conventions, or norms of conduct and judgment. These 


we may call the everyday standards of common sense. Lord 
Balfour has said that while there is general agreement on 
the question of what is right and wrong, there is consider- 
able variation in the reasons which men give for their 
judgments. From this he would seem to have us infer that 
our common sense in morals , what the Germans call the 
"healthy human understanding" is to be trusted in the 
main rather than moral theory and ethical reflection. Be 
this as it may, let us start our investigation by considering 
first whether there is this agreement, and secondly what 
significance such agreement, if it exists, has for ethical 

Balfour's statement is itself, of course, open to question. 
The general agreement of which he speaks is precisely 
what most of us would vigorously deny. Historically there 
has been the greatest divergence in men's judgments as to 
what is right and wrong. Infanticide, slavery, and other 
customs now condemned, were approved or suffered by the 
highly civilized Greeks, as are suttee, polygamy and suicide 
by some modern races. To eat your parents, to sacrifice 
your first-born, to refrain from washing there is hardly 
anything so monstrous or so trivial that it has not been 
somewhere considered a duty, although somewhere else a 
crime. These are simply facts of history and constitute but 
a small part of a large body of evidence against any general 
agreement in this sense. 

Evidently it is not agreement of this sort that Balfour 
has in mind. There are very few things, perhaps, on which 
the moral judgments of all men, at all times and in all 
places, have completely agreed. The consensus of moral 
judgment here spoken of has reference rather to the level 
of present-day reflective morality. On this level there is a 
much larger measure of general agreement. To be sure, 
mutually contradictory moral judgments are found here 


also; even here the variations are considerable. But the 
agreements far outweigh the differences, and the range of 
variation is a comparatively limited one. 

Many would be disposed to question this sort of agree- 
ment also. At first sight the variations seem very great 
and the contradictions often irreconcilable. At the present 
moment much is made of the confusion in morals and the 
destruction of moral standards. Closer examination seems 
to show, however, that on the simpler and more funda- 
mental issues we call moral, common sense has reached, 
and still maintains, a body of principles and maxims which 
call forth a large measure of general assent. It is only neces- 
sary to keep in mind our codes of law which, as we have 
seen, embody the minimum of morality, to see that this is 
so. The universal assent which law in the main receives, 
merely reflects the general consciousness that, within its 
range, it expresses the moral sense of the race. Legal norms 
are essentially moral norms. 


We shall understand the significance of this general 
agreement the better if we examine the nature and range 
of the variations from the norms. 

Moral judgments fall into two quite distinct types or 
classes which must be carefully distinguished. Practically, 
the moral judgment is always concerned with the particular 
act. Did this particular cashier do right or /wrong in tem- 
porarily using certain funds of the bank to tide him over 
a difficult situation? Did Nora, in Ibsen's A Doll's House, 
do right or wrong in leaving her husband? It is evident 
that here variations of judgment of considerable moment 
are bound to occur. "Circumstances alter cases." But there 
is another type of moral problem and another type of moral 
judgment. Not whether I ought or ought not do this par- 


ticular thing, but whether such and such a type or class of 
acts is right or wrong. Here the range of variation and the 
chance of contradiction is increasingly less. 

In the case of the first type of judgment the variations 
are all of the nature of exceptions and are recognized as 
such. The exception does not destroy the rule or norm, 
but, in the words of the old proverb, "proves" or assumes 
it. The cashier would never dream of justifying his act as 
a universal practice. Few would be disposed to say that 
any woman should leave her husband whenever she wants 
to. In all such cases it is always assumed that the norm 
is the fundamental thing and that the variation from it 
must justify itself by an appeal to some higher principle 
or norm, or to some more general theory of the good which 
will explain or justify the exception. 

Now it is with types or norms of conduct that ethical 
reflection or science is primarily concerned. It can not of 
course ignore the problem of the particular act. But in the 
last analysis ethical science, like all science, is concerned 
with universals or laws in this case universals of the type 
of norms. 

Here also, it can not be denied, great divergence is pos- 
sible and contradictory judgments in evidence. But the 
range of variation and the chance of contradiction are in- 
creasingly less. It is conceivable that there might be some 
who would say that any cashier should take the funds of 
his bank whenever he can "get away with it," that any 
wife should leave her husband whenever she wants to. But 
such opinions would be generally recognized as expressing 
a very inconsiderable and insignificant divergence from rec- 
ognized norms. For most men private property is the foun- 
dation of society as we know it and understand it, and the 
rights and duties connected with it acknowledged as normal 
to the life of society. For most men the permanent monog- 
amous family, as developed and protected in our law, is 


the norm of relationship of the sexes, and the rights and 
duties connected with it acknowledged as normal to the 
life of society. This is undoubtedly true. But even at this 
point there is divergence of opinion and contradiction of 
judgment. It can not be denied, for instance, that there 
are many for whom private property is the chief of evils 
and the source of all injustice. There are those for whom 
monogamy is anathema and "free love" the ideal. It is at 
such points that the fundamental problems of ethics arise, 
namely as to the value of our institutions themselves. But so 
far as our present point is concerned, there can be no ques- 
tion. These variations represent inconsiderable variations 
from the general consensus of moral judgment. 


It is idle then to deny that there is a large body of beliefs 
and judgments as to what is right and wrong upon which 
there is general agreement. The radical's attack on what he 
calls "conventional morality'' constitutes in reality a rec- 
ognition of this fact. Conventional morality is precisely 
those customs, laws, and judgments upon which the mass 
of men have agreed; and it is precisely this unanimity, this 
scnsus communis which constitutes the starting point of 
ethics and of ethical reflection. 

What then is the significance of this agreement? It is 
natural to make of this fact of agreement itself a source 
of authority and of the sensus communis itself a test of 
right and wrong. This is in fact what men tended to do 
when morals were no longer accepted on the authority of 
revelation and religion. It is inevitable that men seek au- 
thority somewhere, and when it was no longer sought in 
the will of God it is sought in the will of the majority. 
The majority is always right. No one believes now, how- 
ever, that the mere fact of agreement makes right or wrong, 
any more than it makes truth or falsity. In his An Enemy 


of the People, Ibsen makes Doctor Stockman say that the 
majority is always wrong. Extravagant as this may be, we 
should all agree that we can not determine the true or 
the right by counting noses. On the other hand, it seems 
even more absurd to assume as a working principle that 
the majority is always wrong. The majority is often wrong 
on some concrete moral issue such as faced'* Doctor Stock- 
man. It may conceivably be wrong regarding the more gen- 
eral norms or standards to which it gives its assent. But 
the probability at least is that, as the range of variation, 
so the margin of error will be greater in the particular 
cases and less and less in respect to the more general types 
or norms of conduct. This is at least in general the assump- 
tion of ethics. 

The significance of convention or general agreement in 
morals is found, then, in the fact that these conventions 
constitute norms of conduct that have been worked out in 
the experience of the race. As such they represent at least 
the factual basis or raw material of ethics. Moral reflection 
can not take place in a vacuum any more than can thinking 
about physical things. Science in general has been described 
as "glorified common sense. 7 ' We do not attain to true 
knowledge of the physical world by denying at the start 
all our beliefs about it, but rather by changing and modify- 
ing them as the facts require. It is no different with the 
human relations we call moral. There is such a thing as the 
Public Conscience, and this conscience or consciousness is 
at least the starting point of ethical reflection. 

This is in general the position of moralists or ethical 
philosophers on this important question. It is true that 
there are thinkers like Nietzsche who propose a "trans- 
valuation of all our values/ 7 who would turn our moral 
codes topsy-turvy. Such attempts have their value if for 
no other reason than by causing us to question and go to 
the root or the source of value. There are those who break 


completely with experience and try by their own reason 
to construct new institutions, and to remould the world 
according to their heart's desire. But the general position 
of responsible moralists is that it is not the business of 
ethics to make a new morality, but rather to understand 
and interpret the morality we have. As philosophers have 
not made morality so neither can they unmake it. 


We shall make use of the notion of "common sense" in 
morals in a number of connections. It will be well, there- 
fore, to define it at this point. The term common sense 
itself has had a long and varied career both in popular use 
and in philosophical discussion. Originally it meant little 
more than a name for those things which men thought or 
felt in common the scnsus communis. Little by little, how- 
ever, it took on the meaning of good sense as distinguished 
from poor sense. It is the reason for this second meaning 
that we are chiefly interested in. 

The practical aspect of the question has been well ex- 
pressed by Sumner in his Folkways: "The most emancipated 
of men live largely according to the common sense, the 
mores, and can not wholly free themselves from their dom- 
ination. And it is well that they can not," for as he further 
remarks, "if we had to form judgments as to all cases before 
we could act in them and were forced always to act ration- 
ally (that is reflectively) the burden would be unendurable. 
Beneficent use and wont save us this trouble." 

Common sense has often been attacked as a merely 
euphemistic term for a collection of superstitions and tabus 
that are worthless until they are tested and corrected by 
the processes of analytical reflection. None the less, we per- 
sist in thinking that the results of this common sense may 
often be sounder and represent a broader human truth 
than that attained merely by the intellect acting along its 


own line and without taking very much account of the other 
elements in our nature that enter into the formation of our 
judgments. 1 Common sense in morals represents then that 
body of standards and norms upon which men have reached 
a significant degree of agreement. Some ethical philosophers 
have thought to find in this morality of common sense 
something "instinctive" or innate. Others have seen in it 
merely the resultant of the deeper and broader experience 
of the race. Into this question we shall go in another con- 
nection. In either case the morality of common sense forms 
the starting point for the more critical reflection of theo- 
retical ethics. 


Common sense, as thus understood and defined, does then 
manifest a significant degree of agreement upon the simpler 
and more fundamental questions of right and wrong. As- 
suming this to be true, the second part of Balfour's state- 
ment is also true within limits. Often when men agree as 
to the Tightness or wrongness of acts the reasons they give 
for their judgments differ in important ways. Still more, 
when our judgments vary from the norm, when we call 
that right which is ordinarily called wrong or that wrong 
which is generally thought to be right, do we find ourselves 
justifying our actions and our judgments in different ways. 
It is in fact divergence from the norm that chiefly calls for 

1 Common sense, as thus understood, does not refer to some special 
faculty or power, but "rather to a sort of cooperation of the various 
functions of the mind, a cooperation among the different phases of the 
mind or personality in which the impulses of feeling as well as the dictates 
of reason combine to hold in check or modify what might otherwise have 
been a one-sided outcome of or conclusion of some one ot these total 
processes. In the procedure of common sense, as thus understood, all the 
processes of the personality assist in reaching a rough but broadly human 
conclusion which may be less biased than when the intellect alone does 
the weighing." H. O. Taylor, Human Values and Verities, p. 158. 


justification, and it is here that moral reasoning appears 
and we are necessarily led into reflection on the nature o( 
the good. 

A chief source of difference, both in our judgments as to 
what is right or wrong and in the reasons we give for these 
judgments, seems to lie in two contrasting attitudes which 
we may describe as the rigoristic and the liberal or latitu- 

The rigorist in morals is the man who says "right is 
right and wrong is wrong. 7 ' He is inclined to make few if 
any exceptions to moral rules, and tends to be severe in 
his judgments both on himself and others. The rigoristic 
attitude is associated with two quite different types of per- 
sons. The one consists of people of no marked intellectual 
development with a tendency to accept uncriticized the 
judgments of common sense in morals as elsewhere. The 
other type is more intelligent and thoughtful and gives 
reasons for this attitude. The rigorist of this type is im- 
pressed with the serious consequences of infractions of laws 
or rules. He feels that morality is so important that prac- 
tically one can not be too exacting in his demands upon 
himself and others. But he has a theoretical reason also. 
He feels that right is right and wrong is wrong that if the 
distinction between right and wrong is to have ultimate 
validity these terms must represent intrinsic qualities in- 
herent in the acts themselves. 

In contrast to this we find a more liberal attitude which 
we may describe as latitudinarianism in morals. In so far 
as judgment on the particular case is concerned, its funda- 
mental principle is that circumstances alter cases. It holds 
that everyday standards and rules of conduct are good, 
but exceptions to these rules are also right and good. The 
principle of judgment in this case is that of utility in the 
broadest sense of the term. Morality has to do with right 


action, and judgments on actions are practical judgments. 
Practical judgments have always to do with the question 
of the "good" or the use of a thing. It is therefore only 
natural that when any doubt is raised as to the right or 
wrong of any act, we should ask what is the good or 
the use of it. The most immediate and natural answer to 
this question is that if it brings pleasure it is a good, if it 
brings pain a bad. This is one form of utility judgment and 
historical Utilitarianism has given this answer. But there 
are other conceptions of purpose and utility. Our only point 
here is that the latitudinarian appeals to some concept of 
utility or teleology. 

These contrasting attitudes are brought out clearly in 
the answers to certain moral problems supplied by the un- 
dergraduates of the University of Wisconsin and recorded 
in a monograph published by Professor 1<\ C. Sharp of that 

One of these questions was a variant upon the theme 
used by Victor Hugo in his Les Aliscrables: 

May a poor man, without money, out of work, and un- 
able at the time to find employment, take without the 
knowledge of the owner, a loaf of bread from a bakeshop 
in order to save from starvation the young children of a 
neighbor? Their mother, a widow, is sick in bed and unable 
for the time to earn money for their support. It is impossible 
to get the bread in any other way. 

The following are two typical answers: 

(1) "The man should not steal the bread. Respect for 
the property of others, under all circumstances, lies at the 
basis of our civilization. To indulge, in any degree, in wrong 
makes greater wrong easier and ultimate anarchy possible." 

(2) "I think that the poor man was justified in taking 
the bread under these circumstances. He would be doing 
an infinitely large amount of good compared with the trivial 


harm done, and he would be doing the good by the only 
possible method open to him." l 

Few would hesitate to say that there is an element of 
common sense in both types of reasons given in the fore- 
going answers. Both reasons have, moreover, been devel- 
oped, as we shall see presently, into types of ethical theory 
both of which display not only great logical power but 
also correspond in important ways to the fundamental 
facts of the moral life. At this point, let us merely note that 
common sense is ambiguous. In one of its moods, so to 
speak, it answers in one way, in another, in another way. 
Let us examine this ambiguity in connection with still an- 
other case. It is common sense in morals to think and be- 
lieve that telling the truth is right and that lying is wrong. 
It is also common sense to believe that there are occasions 
when to tell the truth is not right and to tell what is not 
strictly true is a duty. These cases of Notliigc, or lies of 
necessity, as the Germans call them, have been the constant 
material of moral thinking and of no end of ethical dis- 

In his Heaven and Hell, Mark Twain tells the story of 
two maiden sisters who were nursing a sick sister whose 
recovery hung in the balance. The sick woman's little 
girl was not allowed to see her, but she had been sending 
her messages which greatly cheered the patient. But the 
daughter also became seriously ill and the two sisters faced 
the problem of what they should do. Mark Twain's pic- 
ture of their despair, of their horror of telling a lie, and 
their firm conviction that they would be eternally damned 
if they did so, is extremely touching. Equally affecting is 

1 It is interesting to note that in the new code of laws proposed for 
Mexico in 1929 provision is made for exceptional cases of this kind. In 
case of a man's stealing because of hunger, it is specifically stated that the 
law shall not take cognizance of the first offense. 


his description of the final triumph of their love over their 
"duty," when they finally decided to deceive the mother 
for her own good. As the author tells the story, we are left 
in no doubt as to his own attitude and feeling in the matter. 
His indignation at the very idea of a morality that would 
even raise such a question, his hatred of the moral fanat- 
icism that would put abstract truth above life and love, 
finds, no doubt, an echo in the hearts of most of his readers. 

Most of us would share these feelings of Mark Twain. 
We should be disposed to call the person who maintained 
the opposite various names, such as absolutist, rigorist, 
fanatic. Now the absolutist and rigorist has something to 
say for himself, and we shall permit him to have his say 
in the proper place. All that we are concerned to point 
out here is that "common sense" would ordinarily associate 
itself with the liberal or utilitarian point of view, under- 
stood in the broadest sense. Further illustrations will bring 
out this point even more clearly. 

The philosopher Fichte was such a rigorist and absolut- 
ist. When the question was asked him: what would you 
do if to tell your wife the truth when she was 511 would 
kill her, he replied, if my wife must die by the truth let 
her die. One might conceivably be willing to go with Fichte 
this far, although even here common sense would be in 
the main against him. But let us take a second case in 
which the conditions are slightly altered. A Zurich theater 
manager, in the case of a fire in his theater, gave a false 
reason for the suspension of the play and cleared the theater 
without injury to any one, when to have given the real 
reason would almost certainly have produced a panic and 
a fearful loss of life. Here, I suppose, there would be 
scarcely any one who would refuse to justify the manager's 
conduct. One of the more general questions in the exam- 
ination for the first Thomas A. Edison Scholarship de- 
signed to test the general intelligence and insight of the 


applicant was this: When do you consider a lie to be 
permissible? To this the successful applicant answered, 
"In case of serious trouble, pain and grief, and you do not 
benefit yourself in any way." This, we should all feel, is 
the answer of common sense. 


The illustrations we have taken to bring out the differ- 
ence between the two general attitudes have to do with the 
old stock moral problem as to whether it is ever right to 
tell a lie. We might have taken cases involving the question 
of strict obedience to any of the moral commandments. Or 
we might take much more complex and involved moral 
questions, such as writers of modern problem plays and 
novels delight in. Was Nora in Ibsen's A Doll's House justi- 
fied in leaving her husband? Was the heroine in Eugene 
O'NeiU's Strange, Interlude justified in what is morally called 
an act of adultery, in order to save the reason of her husband 
and in order to have the child which otherwise she dare 
not have? Any one of these problems would take us into 
the very heart of ethical thinking and bring out clearly 
both the nature of moral reasoning and the types of reason 
that develop into ethical theories. Instead of any one of 
these, I shall choose a famous case which aroused a great 
deal of discussion and considerable furor. It has the added 
advantage of involving a real novelty in moral conduct and 
ethical judgment which is increasingly bothering moralists 
and courts of law alike. 

In November of 1915, a Chicago surgeon, J. H. Haisel- 
den, contrary to accepted medical ethics, refused to operate 
on a baby boy, four days old. This he did, he affirmed, "in 
the interest of the human race and more particularly of 
American manhood. " He explained that the boy was ex- 
tremely defective and would probably remain so throughout 
life. He believed the infant to be dying, but there was no 


extent distinctly to oppose mental development to a degree 
necessary to a self-reliant individual should be permitted to 
die. The only good or value for the child is in this capacity 
of development." Still others stressed the social side of the 
same argument. "It has always been my opinion," writes one 
physician, "that all children born with congenital abnormal- 
ity are a detriment to society. I distinctly believe that it is 
humane to cut off their future sufferings and those of society." 

Our examination of the discussion of this important and 
interesting case has disclosed several points in ethical 
thought and argument which may be stated in general terms 
and extended to all cases of ethical thinking. 

In the first place, the reasons given for denouncing or 
justifying the act fall into two main groups, which may be 
described as Formalist and Teleological. On the one hand 
we have those for whom Miss Jane Addams was a spokes- 
man, who believe that at least some things and acts are 
inherently right or wrong, good or bad. In this particular 
case, life itself is an absolute good or value. Whether it be 
because God gave life and that gift confers an absolute 
value, or whether it is, so to speak, in the nature of things, "a 
law of nature," the good of life is intrinsic or absolute. From 
this follows the obligation to maintain life at all costs (an 
obligation which has generally been considered absolute in 
medical ethics) and refusal to maintain life is a violation of 
that obligation. 

On the other hand, we have those for whom no act or 
thing is inherently right or wrong, good or bad. Iwen life 
itself the most precious of all the goods of God or nature, 
has only relative value. That value is determined by its 
utility, whether we define that utility in terms of its capacity 
to produce happiness, either individual or social, or in terms 
of the capacity or potentiality of that life to develop in itself, 
or to contribute to the development of society or the race. 


There is therefore no absolute obligation to maintain life at 
all costs. The obligation is merely conditional. 

The first type of reasons are what are called jormalistic 
and the ethical theory it represents Formalism. The 
reason for this characterization is that this type of argu- 
mentation assumes that good or value is a quality, an 
essence, or a form, inherent in objects or acts themselves. 
From Plato on, Western philosophy has distinguished be- 
tween the form and the matter of things, the form or essence 
of a thing being that which makes the thing what it is. Good 
is such a form or essence. The second type of reasons are 
called teleological. 

All ethical theories fall into these two fundamental 
classes. But there are distinctions within the latter group 
which it is desirable to make clear, even at this early stage 
of our study. The two types of teleological thinking which 
were clearly distinguishable in the arguments we examined, 
correspond completely to two types of ethical theory well 
established in the history of ethical thought. It may seem to 
be practically of very little importance whether we say, let 
the baby die because he has no chance of happiness or 
because he has no capacity of development, because he will 
make his parents and other people unhappy or because his 
continuance in life is contrary to the interests of American 
manhood and of the race. But it is of considerable practical 
importance, as we shall see, and of very great theoretical 
significance. In any case, the teleological arguments all fall 
naturally into two main classes: (a) those which thought of 
the good or value in terms of pleasure or happiness, and (b) 
those who thought of it in terms of development or self- 
realization. The first have been called the Hedonists, the 
second the Perfectionists or Self-rcalizationists. 

It is important to note that no type of reason and no line 
of argument is to be found in the literature of the discussion 
other than these three. Many ethical thinkers have held that 


no other type of reason, no other ethical theory is possible, 
that although there are variations on these arguments and 
differences in terminology and expression, all are ultimately 
reducible to these three. This is the view of the present 
writer. The use of the foregoing illustration was partly with 
the purpose of bringing out this fact. This being so, it follows 
that the theoretical part of ethics has to do chiefly with the 
critical examination of these types of reasoning. 


We may then give the following classification of ethical 

I. Formalist 

II Teleolo'icalf Hedonist 

1 Perfectionist (Self-realization) 

Both of the teleological theories may emphasize now the 
individual aspect of the good, or again the social or uni- 
versal, as was apparent in the discussion referred to. We 
thus get a further subdivision: 


I. Hedonistic 

. . f Individualistic 

Universalistic (Social) 

TT f Individualistic 

II. Perfectionist-^ TT . ,. . /0 . lx 
(^ Universalistic (Social) 

There is still a further distinction in perfectionist theories 
that is of importance, a distinction brought out also in this 
discussion. One may have one's eyes on the organic or 
biological aspect and think largely of organic welfare and 
perfection of organic life. Or one may think of life in its 
more spiritual and personal aspect and think of the good not 
so much as organic welfare, as self-realization or realization 
and perfection of personality. The first we shall describe as 


naturalistic perfectionism, the second as idealistic perfec- 
tionism or the ethics of self-realization. 


We have used this case merely as material for displaying 
the nature of ethical reilection in general and for disclosing 
the fundamental types of theory to which such thinking 
leads. It is, however, natural, as we said, that we should ask: 
Well, was the act itself right or wrong? To which theory 
are we to appeal in answering that question? 

As the discussion itself developed, it seemed that in the 
main the formalists said the act was wrong and the teleol- 
ogists said it was right. And it is true that the teleological 
line of argument was used mainly to justify the act. We 
might infer, therefore, that if we are teleologists we must 
necessarily and inevitably justify it and be on the side of 
novelty and "progress." That would be, however, to take an 
entirely too superficial view of the situation. A teleological 
line of argument might well be developed for the conserv- 
ative and rigorous standpoint. 

One might, for instance, admit the fundamental principle 
that life is not an absolute value in itself, but gets its value 
from other values which it makes possible whether defined 
as happiness or development. One might further admit that 
the continuance of the life of the Bollenger baby could serve 
no good end, either for itself or for others, but might in fact 
bring with it evil consequences. Still the argument would not 
necessarily be convincing. For one might point out that the 
evil consequences of putting the right of life and death into 
the hands of physicians might far outweigh the immediate 
good. One might go further and say that the sacredness of 
the right to life, while not necessarily absolute and intrinsic, 
is yet so basal in civilization, has been worked out with such 
blood and sweat, that any tendency to weaken it will result 
in evils that would far outweigh any immediate good for the 


individual or individuals concerned. This is the present 
writer's position. But the only point of interest here is that a 
general telcological point of view in ethics does not commit 
one to the position that a physician is justified in allowing a 
human being to die under the given circumstances. 

There is still another comment worth making in this con- 
nection, one which will serve to throw light on the working 
of "common sense" in moral matters. In this particular 
instance, the physician was exonerated by the coroner's jury. 
Other cases of a similar nature especially in recent years 
have been marked by similar leniency. In Sheffield, England, 
a year or two ago, the right of a doctor to let a patient die 
rather than live on in unremediable pain, was tacitly upheld 
by a coroner's jury there. The patient, a certain John Robin- 
son, took an overdose of a dangerous medicine. In view of 
the patient's great pain, his physician, Dr. A. T. Simpson, 
decided to make no attempt to counteract the poisonous 
effects of the medicine. The jury brought in a verdict that 
Robinson died from medicine taken to relieve pain and cause 
him to sleep. The coroner in summation declared that 
neither he nor the jury should either commend or censure 
Dr. Simpson. 

Still more recently in Karlshorst, Germany, a mother shot 
her incurably insane son rather than see him suffer the 
tortures of life without mental reason. Her case was treated 
with leniency, and in their decision the Berlin judges had 
similar cases of life-taking as a means of relieving victims 
from intolerable suffering to guide them, in all of which 
cases the utmost leniency had been shown. A similar case 
occurred in Draguigan, France, in November, 1929, in which 
a certain Richard Corbett, a citizen of France, was brought 
before court and finally acquitted by a jury of peasant 
farmers on the charge of murder, for having shot his elderly 
French mother who was suffering from incurable cancer, the 
pain of which was no longer preventable by opiates. 


The comment I would make on all these cases is that they 
bring out with the utmost clearness the fundamental prob- 
lem of ethics, namely the difference between justifying a 
particular exception to a rule or norm and elevating the 
exception into a new principle or norm. In the last case con- 
sidered, the public prosecutor spoke of "the tremendously 
vital question whether society can permit one human being 
to take the life of another and remain unpunished." The 
jury impressed by this, sought a way by which the principle 
of the sacredness of life could be upheld, and the individual 
allowed to go unpunished. This not being possible in French 
law, they declared him "not guilty." It is one thing, in 
morals as well as law, to find "extenuating circumstances" 
for variation from a norm. It is quite another thing to deny 
the norm itself. It is, as we have seen, with the norms that 
ethics is, in the first instance at least, concerned. 


The object of this chapter was, however, not primarily to 
solve this interesting and important problem of morals but 
rather to show the nature of moral reflection. The examina- 
tion of the discussions connected with the Bollenger baby 
case has shown two things. In the first place, reflective 
morality involves not only judgment but the giving of 
reasons for the judgment. Moral reasoning or reflection falls 
into three main types which we have now analyzed and 
defined. In the second place, out of these three fundamental 
ways of reasoning develop the three fundamental types of 
ethical theory. Practical moral judgments are seen to be 
inseparable from moral theory. Fact and reason, practice 
and theory, work hand in hand here, as in all the sciences. 
In our study of ethics we shall find it convenient to begin 
with an examination of these theories in the light of moral 
facts. The earliest and in a sense the most natural theory is 
the formalist ic. To this we shall now turn. 




* F. Paulsen, System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. I. 

* An Introduction to Reflective Thinking, by Columbia Asso- 

ciates in Philosophy, Chaps. XI and XII. 

* G. C. Cox, The Public Conscience, Introduction and Chap. I. 
F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chap. I. 

John Dewey, Moral Theory and Practice. 


H. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, Bk. I, Chap. 6. 

A. K. Rogers, Morals in Review. 

Hastings Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil. 

James Marti neau, Types of Ethical Theory. 

F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chap. XVI. 

E. F. Carritt, The Theory of Morals. 

C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory. 



That some actions are intrinsically right or wrong, some 
things good or bad in themselves, some rights inherent in 
man and in the nature of man as such, are beliefs so wide- 
spread and of such great influence, that we can scarcely 
dismiss them merely as superstitions or as survivals of 
earlier stages of thought. They are still the driving force in 
the lives of large classes of people and the underlying as- 
sumption of a large part of our legal practice and thinking 
today. They still constitute the ultimate appeal of many we 
would call modern and progressive and are often identified 
with the "moral idea" itself. 


It is not difficult to see why this idea or belief should have 
attained such power over the mind of man. Morality has 
had a long history. It began in custom, advanced to the stage 
of codified law, and finally in the more "progressive" peoples 
reached the stage of reflective morality. These levels of 
ethical development, as they are called, are well marked 
stages in the culture of all civilized races and a comparative 
study of the morals of such peoples as the Hebrews and the 
Greeks, to mention only those with which our own culture is 
related, shows such clearly marked levels. The characteristic 
of "customary" morality, as it is called, is that it is absolute 
and unquestioned. Things simply are or are not done. What 
more natural, therefore, than that, when out of mere customs 
codes of law were formed, the same feeling of inherent right 



and wrong should attach itself to the laws? It is no less 
understandable that when morality became more inward 
and reflective men should imagine for themselves a special 
organ or faculty, called conscience, through which this same 
inherent moral quality of acts is revealed. 

Many hold that formalism is thus merely a survival of 
primitive tabu. To this explanation is added another factor 
of a psychological nature. It is a well-known fact that men 
often forget the processes by which they come to feel that 
one thing is not done and another is done, and end by think- 
ing that the Tightness or wrongness of the act is something 
intrinsic to it. Thus, it is entirely conceivable that a child 
might be trained to feel that it was wrong to eat certain 
things or to step on the threshold of the door upon entering a 
room. Constant repetition of the command, together with 
punishment for disobedience or reward for obedience, would 
fix the idea of inherent right or wrong in his mind quite 
independently of any purpose that the act might have, and 
even if it were wholly purposeless and irrational. In fact 
just such tabus, as they are called, are constant characters of 
primitive and tribal societies and they survive long after 
their purpose is forgotten, and even after they are purpose- 
less or harmful. 

We may readily understand, therefore, how the idea that 
some actions are inherently right and others inherently 
wrong, should have got such a hold on the mind of man. 
Early impressions are very lasting, both in the individual and 
in the race, and the formidable conservative and pedagogical 
forces which would naturally be brought, especially by 
religion, to maintain this idea, should account for much of 
its persistence. But these explanations do not in themselves, 
account for its continuance, as a theory, on the level of 
reflective morality. There is still stronger force at work 
which we may call logical and may describe as the need to 
think things out. It is extremely difficult to avoid the notion 


that somewhere, some things must be inherently good or 
bad, some actions intrinsically right or wrong. Many things 
are clearly good only because they lead to other goods, many 
actions right only because they are instrumental to the 
bringing about of other ends; but somewhere in this line of 
thought we must come upon things that are good or bad in 
themselves. If, as in the formalistic thinking of the preceding 
chapter, human life is one of these intrinsic unconditioned 
values, then any act that, either by commission or omission, 
takes that life, is felt to be inherently wrong. 

In any case, the student must be on his guard against the 
insidious tendency to think that formalism in ethics can be 
explained in terms of anthropological and psychological 
causes. In general, it is fallacious to think that by explaining 
a thing we have explained it away. When we have shown 
that something has been produced by something else, by a 
perhaps slow and imperceptible development, we must not 
suppose that we have shown the product to be nothing more 
than the things out of which it has developed or emerged. 
If this is true in regard to particular moral customs and 
rules, it is even more true in regard to the general moral 
attitude and theory called formalism. However it may have 
originated, it has to be justified or condemned on its own 
merits, not on those of what is known or guessed to have 
been its far-away origin. It is with the merits of formalism 
as an ethical theory that we are here concerned. 


There has been a long tradition of formalism in the think- 
ing of the race. The ethical philosophy of the Greeks was 
predominantly ideological, as we shall later see, Plato and 
Aristotle having provided the chief forms of moral reasoning 
for the Western world. But there was always a strong in- 
gredient of formalism in Greek thought. 

The Sophists, although relativists and sceptics in morals 


so far as human conventions and conventional morality were 
concerned, nevertheless appealed to a morality inherent in 
nature, to "natural rights" as founded on natural law, in the 
sense of elementary instincts and human nature. The Stoics 
were, however, the chief representatives of the formalistic 
point of view, as they were also the chief upholders of the 
rigoristic attitude in practical morality. It is to them that 
we owe the first and most imposing use of the ideas of 
natural law and inherent right. 

Christian morality inherited a strong strain of formalism 
from the ethics of Judaism. The ten commandments, written 
on tables of stone, were also written on the "fleshly tablets of 
the heart." The code of morals thus embodied represented, 
not only the will of God but inherent laws of nature, rules of 
conduct intrinsically right. The philosophical ethics of Chris- 
tian thinkers, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, 
were predominantly teleological and derived from Plato and 
Aristotle. But Stoic formalism had great influence. Moral 
laws are laws of God, but they are also laws of nature which, 
as God's creation, are the expression of his will. 

The formalistic element in Greek and Christian thought 
was carried over directly into modern ethical philosophy. 
When, at the time of the Renaissance, modern states tended 
to throw off the authority of the Church and the papacy, 
there arose a corresponding tendency to found both morals 
and law on laws of nature. With this came a natural ten- 
dency to revert to formalistic views and to doctrines of 
innate ideas. Men tended to insist upon the idea that in the 
"natural light of reason," and by going back to nature before 
the artificial and conventional institutions of society were 
formed, they could find fundamental laws, both of con- 
science and of nature, which are unchangeable and indis- 
putable. In Locke's writings and in the political creeds of the 
French revolutionaries and of the United States, the idea of 


natural law and natural right became fundamental. The 
philosopher Kant, who developed what is perhaps the most 
important philosophical expression of formalism, shared the 
premises and assumptions of this period. 


As a practical moral attitude, formalism is the expression 
of the feeling that right is right and wrong is wrong, and that 
no amount of reasoning or theory can change the inherent 
quality of our acts. As an ethical theory, it is a reasoned 
argument for the view that distinctions of right and wrong 
are inherent in the nature of things and not derivable or 
deducible from anything else. We may begin our study of 
this standpoint in morals by seeking a general definition 
which will be broad enough to cover all the various ways in 
which this theory has been expressed. 

According to formalism, then, the moral quality of an act 
consists in some inherent or absolute quality of the act, 
without regard to the results that flow from it or the end 
that may be achieved. Otherwise expressed, the formalist 
sees in moral rules norms or standards for the control of 
conduct, but he finds the authority for these rules in their 
own intrinsic nature. In this he differs from the teleologist 
who believes that these norms or standards must be carried 
back for their authority or validity to some more ultimate 
conception of the good. 

The representatives of formalism do not, of course, doubt 
that in the main good and desirable results will follow from 
good actions, and evil results from evil actions. They do not 
doubt that there is reason for the maxim, "be good and you 
will be happy," or that there is some connection, in the very 
nature of things, between virtue and happiness. What they 
do deny is that it is the results that make the goodness, or 
that it is happiness that determines the virtuous character. 



The examination of this view as a theory of moral value, 
or of the locus of moral value, is complicated and made more 
difficult by the fact that it has been constantly associated in 
ethical thought with another problem, namely that of moral 
knowledge or Conscience. Is there a special moral sense or 
intuition, or is knowledge in the moral sphere (and knowl- 
edge of values in general) just like the knowledge of other 
facts? Is conscience a special moral faculty or is it merely 
consciousness or experience, as concerned with a special 
kind of objects? 

This question itself raises important problems, and as 
difficult as they are important, which will require considera- 
tion in their proper place (Chapter XVI). It is immediately 
evident, however, that the theory of conscience and the 
theory of formalism are of necessity closely bound up with 
each other. If it be held that moral value is some quality or 
essence inherent in the act as such, it would be natural to 
assume that there must be some special moral sense or intui- 
tion by which this quality is apprehended, just as we have 
special sense organs to apprehend or intuit the sense quali- 
ties, such as hot and cold, white and yellow. On the other 
hand, if we think that moral value inheres in types or classes 
of acts, we shall think not of a moral sense but of a moral 
reason, which intuits moral axioms or norms in much the 
same way that the reason intuits the general axioms or prin- 
ciples of logic and mathematics. In any case, formalism is 
divided into theories of moral sense and moral reason and 
we shall consider it under these two heads. 


Those who believe in a special moral sense think of the 
Tightness or wrongness of an act in the same way that we 
think of the color or taste of an object or of its heaviness or 


size. The moral act is a thing or object, a happening, and the 
Tightness or wrongness is a quality that is supposed to inhere 
in the object or happening, in somewhat the same way as the 
color or weight is thought to inhere in the object. 

This way of thinking is natural so natural in fact that 
we see the same line of thought applied to what we call the 
esthetic characters of things. Thus it is hard to believe that 
what we call the beauty of a sunset or of a human form is 
not somehow in the objects or that a hideous negro mask is 
not somehow intrinsically ugly. It is even more difficult 
perhaps to believe that there is not some inherent quality of 
badness in an act of cannibalism or incest, quite apart from 
the relations of these acts to the purposes of life and from 
the consequences which they entail. The natural repugnance 
we feel towards the torturing of a little child does not seem 
to be adequately explained or justified if the act itself, as 
such, is not somehow wrong in the very nature of things. 

However natural this way of thinking may be, this is not 
the kind of formalism commonly advocated today. The 
reasons for this are not far to seek. For one thing, the whole 
idea of a moral sense, analogous to the physical senses, is 
out of harmony with modern psychology which recognizes no 
such thing as a special moral "faculty." This aspect of the 
question will be taken up in a later connection and need not 
be gone into here. Even more important in bringing this 
about is a change in our views of the nature of sense qual- 
ities with which the moral qualities were made analogous. 

We naturally think of good and bad, right and wrong, as 
simple qualities inherent in the act. This follows from certain 
deep-seated habits of thought and speech. When for instance 
we say, this stone is heavy, this gold is yellow, we naturally 
think of the stone as a thing or substance and the heaviness 
or yellow as qualities that inhere in the things. It is only 
natural that when we use the same form of words, this act is 
good, this act is bad, we should carry over the same idea. 


But even in the case of the sense qualities we know now that 
these qualities, such as heaviness or yellow, do not inhere in 
the stone or the gold, but are rather "functions", as we say, 
of their relations to other things. Moral qualities of actions 
are even more obviously functions in this sense, and for this 
reason, those who hold the doctrine of inherent moral value 
today are inclined to think that right and wrong are not 
qualities of single acts apprehended by a special moral sense, 
but apply rather to general principles or norms of conduct 
that are apprehended by reason. On this view, the Tightness 
or wrongness of the particular act is determined by its rela- 
tion to these general principles or laws and this determina- 
tion is a function of moral reason. 


The great representative of the doctrine of moral reason 
and of moral law, is the famous philosopher, Immanuel 
Kant. The quotation from his writings with which this pro- 
found moralist is almost invariably introduced, gives the key 
to his thinking. "Two things," Jiej:rjes, "nil me with awe, 
the starry heavens above and the moral law within." This 
awe in the presence of the "reign of law" in nature and in 
man is the key to all Kant's thinking. As he sought to put 
physical science and the laws of nature on a sound basis as 
against the scepticism of Hume so he also sought to main- 
tain the objectivity of moral law against the scepticism and 
relativism that had grown up in the eighteenth century. 

It is impossible to do justice to this great thinker in a few 
paragraphs, more especially as the main drift of our study 
must be critical. For one thing, it should be emphasized that 
the rigorous and formalistic character of Kant's conception 
of morals did not prevent him from being at the same time 
one of the most forward-looking and progressive social and 
political thinkers of his time. Kant was a vigorous advocate 


of political liberty and the rights of man. He was a strong 
believer in moral progress and argued eloquently for inter- 
nationalism and permanent peace between the nations. It 
will help us to catch some of the spirit of this great thinker 
if we realize from the start that it was precisely because 
man is the bearer of moral reason and the moral law, that he 
has for Kant such high value and dignity, and should for 
this reason always be treated as an end in himself and never 
as a means to ends. 


Kant agrees fully with the general idea of formalism that 
the moral value or quality of an act consists in something 
absolute and inherent in it, quite irrespective of the con- 
sequences that flow from it and of the end that may thereby 
be achieved. He expressed this idea in his well-known doc- 
trine of the Categorical Imperative. What Kant meant by 
this expression is that the moral quality of an act always 
shows itself in the fact that it comes to us as a command or 
an imperative. It comes, moreover, categorically, that is un- 
conditionally. We often act, it is true, from considerations of 
utility or expediency, and actions proceeding from such 
motives are in their place both reasonable and legitimate; 
but such motives do not have the moral quality. It is, accord- 
ing to Kant, both sensible and reasonable to say, if you do 
not want to be sick, refrain from eating such and such food; 
but the mere fact that it is sensible and reasonable does not 
give it a moral quality. This moral quality would enter only 
at the point where I felt that I ought not to make myself 
sick. In other words, if an act is to have moral quality, this 
sense or feeling of unconditional oitghtncss must enter in 
somewhere. Kant expresses this idea by saying that the 
moral quality is connected with the form, not with the con- 
tent of the act. Moreover, we know this moral quality of 
the act by its categorical form and this knowledge is a 


matter of direct intuition; or, as Kant says, it is immediate 
or a priori knowledge. 


Now it is, as we have seen, in a sense easy to explain or 
explain away this sense of oughtness. It is possible to think 
of it as a survival of early tabus. It is possible to point out 
psychologically how we forget the origin of our feelings and 
the associations under which they have grown up, and come 
to think that the quality of oughtness is underived and un- 
conditioned. Kant was not, of course, unaware of these 
things. In his day it was customary to explain obligation in 
this psychological way. The ideas of good and bad, and the 
feelings of obligation connected with them, were explained as 
the result of early associations with pleasurable and painful 
consequences which were then forgotten. For Kant this 
appeared to be a wholly superficial point of view. lie points 
out not only that the quality of the feeling of oughtness is 
quite different from the feelings of pleasantness and un- 
pleasantness, but also that we can no more derive the idea 
of a categorical and unconditional obligation from such asso- 
ciations than we can derive the idea of necessary cause from 
mere associations, as the empiricist and sceptic Hume at- 
tempted to do. 

In this part of his argument Kant was undoubtedly right. 
As a matter of fact, his entire point was misunderstood by 
the empiricists of his day, just as it is often misunderstood 
by people now, for whom there is much less excuse. Kant 
did not, of course, mean to deny the changing content of 
morals in the history of the race, or that the objects towards 
which men feel obligation have been the product of experi- 
ence. He did insist, however, that to show psychologically 
or sociologically how different actions have come to be 
considered right or wrong does not explain the difference 
between the feeling of obligation and other kinds of feeling. 


The sense, the meaning, of obligation what he calls the 
form of the moral act is so different in quality that it cannot 
be explained away in terms of other kinds of feeling. 1 


The moral quality of an act always shows itself to us in 
the form of such an imperative as obligation or oughtness. 
But and this is the important point in the understanding 
of Kant's position this fact does not exclude the further 
fact that we can give reasons for this oughtness and this 
value. Morality is a matter of reason for Kant, not of feel- 
ing. We can, in fact, always sec the reason for any one of the 
great moral imperatives. The body of everyday morality is 
made up of a number of commands or norms, mostly in a 
negative form. Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, thou 
shalt not commit adultery, etc. These maxims or norms of 
morality come to us, it is true, categorically and uncondi- 
tionally; but it is possible to find the general principle or 
law that underlies all these separate commands, just as in 
other fields of human knowledge and reason it is possible 
to discover the more general principle or law under which 
particular laws or rules are subsumed. To this task Kant set 
himself, namely to formulate the ultimate "imperative of 
the practical reason" in terms of which the moral rules are to 
be understood. 

Before stating this general law we must make a comment 
on Kant's conception that morality is a matter of reason, not 
of feeling. It is not unnatural to think that when we call an 
act right or wrong we are expressing a feeling rather than a 
judgment of knowledge or reason. We say, indeed, that we 
"feel" that a thing is right. We feel obligation and our 

1 For a good modern statement of this same general position, see Edding- 
ton. Science and the Unseen World, pp. 50 ff. For Eddington, as for Kant, 
science is wholly incapable of explaining the mean-ing of obligation. 


conscience has feelings of satisfaction or remorse. Such 
expressions are partly due to the fact that in our ordinary 
language we use the word feeling without much discrimina- 
tion, as when we also say, for instance, that we "feel" that 
a statement is true. They are also due to the further fact that 
while morality is a matter of judgment or reason, feeling is 
present to a larger degree than in those activities of reason 
connected with what we call science. But Kant's point and 
it is a sound one is that feeling is not the essential char- 
acter of the moral judgment. Feeling is always personal in 
character, while reason is impersonal. Wherever knowledge 
is sought, we must strive to go beyond our own personal 
desires and feelings to some truth that is independent of 
them. This is characteristic of all knowledge we call science 
and moral knowledge is no exception to the rule. 


Kant maintains, then, that the moral judgment is a judg- 
ment of reason, not merely an expression of feeling. The 
moral fact or moral experience comes, we have seen, in the 
form of imperatives. Moral reason would then express itself 
in a more general or universal imperative which would in- 
clude the lesser norms and show their meaning or reason. 
The ordinary maxims of morality could then be shown to be 
special cases of a single general maxim or principle. This 
general principle he formulates in the following way. "Act 
only on that maxim that thou can'st will to be a law uni- 
versal.' 7 Kant's thought here may be stated in this way. 
Everyday morality comes to us as a body of maxims or 
rules of different origin and of varying significance. There 
are imperatives of mere custom or social pressure, there are 
maxims of common sense, in the sense of mere expediency, 
and there are maxims of a more fundamental and moral 
quality. How shall we distinguish the moral from the non- 


moral? The criterion of the moral is for Kant this principle 
of universality. 

Kant is most insistent in distinguishing this form of moral 
reasoning from other kinds of practical reasoning. There is 
a mode of reasoning in matters of practice with which we 
have become familiar, namely that of expediency or utility. 
We start, let us say, with the common sense view that to tell 
the truth is good and to tell a lie is bad. There arises an 
irresistible pressure of desire and feeling to tell an untruth 
to make an exception. For the making of such exceptions 
we can give all sorts of reasons and marshal all sorts of 
arguments. For Kant, however, this is not moral reasoning. 
It is what he calls the reasoning of expediency or utility, and 
while it is a form of the practical reason, it is not the moral 
form. The moral form is that alone which recognizes that 
the right, to be really right, must have the character of 
universality and necessity. 

Kant illustrates his principle in detail in his l\fctaphysics 
of Morals. A man finds himself forced by necessity to borrow 
money. He knows that he will not be able to repay it, but 
sees also that nothing will be lent to him unless he promises 
stoutly to repay it at a definite time. He desires to make this 
promise but he has still so much conscience as to ask himself, 
is it not unlawful and inconsistent with duty to get out of my 
difficulty in this way? Suppose, however, that he resolves to 
do so, then the maxim of his action would be expressed thus: 
When I think myself in need of money, I will borrow money 
and promise to repay it, although I know that I can never 
do so. Now this principle of self-love or of one's own advan- 
tage may perhaps be consistent with my whole future wel- 
fare, but the question now is, is it right? I change then the 
question of self-love into a universal law, and state the 
question thus: How would it be if my maxim were a uni- 


versal law? Then I see at once that it could never hold as 
a universal law of nature, but it would necessarily contradict 
itself. For supposing that it be a universal law, that every- 
one when he thinks himself in difficulty should be able to 
promise what he pleases, with the purpose of not keeping 
his promise, the promise itself would become impossible, as 
well as the end which one might have in view in making it. 
Kant illustrates his principle in connection with other moral 
problems such as the desire to take one's own life, etc., but 
one is sufficient to make clear the point. 

Kant's position, it will be seen, is that morality is a matter 
of rational insight. I see at once that the exception I propose 
to myself, dictated by the maxim of self-love or expediency, 
could never hold as a universal law of nature. It could not 
hold, any more than an exceptional happening that violated 
the universal principle that everything has a cause, could be 
conceived as holding in physical nature. 

For this reason Kant is disposed to carry all morality 
back to a principle of rational consistency. In other words, 
the moral is the rational or consistent, the immoral is the 
irrational and inconsistent. In the illustration proposed the 
immorality of breaking one's promises is evident, in that it 
is ultimately self-defeating, in that it makes both the act 
itself and the end involved in the act ultimately impossible. 

Morality being of this nature, according to Kant, it is 
again easy to see the force of another of his famous sayings. 
"Nothing," he says, "can possibly be conceived in the world, 
or even out of it, which can be called good without quali- 
fication except a Good Will." What Kant means by this is 
that, while there are innumerable things in the world that 
we call good or valuable because of their utility, because 
they are instrumental to other goods, the good will is the 
only thing that has intrinsic value. Even if, with the greatest 
efforts it should achieve nothing, and there should remain 
only the good will, then, "like a jewel it would still shine 


by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in 

Kant is a consistent thinker, intent upon thinking things 
through and not afraid to draw the consequences of his 
argument. For him, then, duty for duty's sake becomes the 
practical maxim of the moral life, because it is the only 
form of practice consistent with moral insight or reason. 


We have now the essential principle of formalism before 
us in what is generally believed to be its most impressive 
and most tenable form. The formalistic attitude is, as we 
have said, still so widespread and of such power and in- 
fluence that it demands a most careful examination. A 
critical examination of it in the Kantian form, will perhaps 
enable us to see the elements of truth and falsity in the 
entire position as such. 

Formalism, at least as developed by Kant, is intended 
to be both a practical test of right and wrong and a true 
theoretical account of the basis of distinctions of right and 
wrong themselves. He is dealing with the "practical reason" 
of man or with reason in its practical activity. From the 
point of view of practice, the test for right and wrong 
proposed by Kant does work up to a point. It constitutes 
a good negative guide to conduct. In general it may be said, 
that to ask ourselves whether we can will an act to be "a 
law universal," whether as rational beings we can con- 
template the idea that everybody should do it, is an excel- 
lent way of finding out what we should not do. It may be 
said without hesitation that the man who followed Kant's 
principle who would not, for instance, evade the income 
tax, or violate the prohibition law, because he can not con- 
template the idea of everybody evading his obligations or 
violating laws without the feeling that it is repugnant to 
his deepest reason is in every way a better citizen than 


the man who consulted either what Kant calls his self-love 
or expediency. The reason for this is that whatever the 
ultimate grounds of morality may be, it at least is, in some 
sense, objective and, to some degree at least, universal. 
Kant's principle recognizes that fact. 


But even as a practical test Kant's principle soon shows 
its limitations. It is chielly as a negative guide that it func- 
tions, and morality, on its higher levels at least, is positive 
and not negative. Negative morality conserves values but 
does not create new ones. Even as a negative guide, how- 
ever, Kant's principle presents difficulties which we can 
not overlook. Comprehensive as it is, it really affords no 
satisfactory guide in the complexities of the moral life. 
Mere universality, Kant's formal test of consistency, in it- 
self affords us no certain practical rules of conduct. 

The reason for this seems to lie, in the first place, in a 
certain ambiguity inherent in the principle of universality 
itself. In applying it two interpretations seem to be possible, 
either one of which lands us in certain serious practical 
difficulties. Does the test of universality apply to each par- 
ticular situation or problem as it arises? If so it becomes 
extremely lax. Thus to take an illustration, a bank cashier 
has been speculating in the stock market. He requires a 
certain amount of money for twenty-four hours, in order 
to meet a demand to cover his margins. He can in all prob- 
ability abstract certain funds from his bank without the 
fact being discovered. It is almost certain that the money 
will not be lost and that he can return it without the bank 
being the loser and without any one being the wiser. On the 
other hand, not to do so means complete ruin to himself 
and family. It is quite conceivable that a man, faced with 
such a situation and asked to apply Kant's principle of uni- 
versalization, might quite honestly say: Yes, if any one else 


is in quite the "jam" I find myself, let him do likewise. I 
can will that my action be a universal law. 

Such an interpretation would undoubtedly lead to a very 
lax morality. It is precisely the way many people reason, 
especially in matters of the heart and of sex morality. 
There is scarcely any deviation from the norms of conduct 
in this sphere which can not be "rationalized" in this way. 
Such situations for the person in love are always unique. 
Kant would, of course, have no sympathy with the lax 
morality which such an interpretation of his principle would 
involve. His morality was essentially a rigorous one. He 
meant his principle to be applied to classes of acts rather 
than to particular situations, and accepted all the rigorous 
consequences which such an interpretation involves. But 
this interpretation has its difficulties, both practical and 
theoretical, no less than the lax interpretation. It leads to 
the moral fanaticism of which we spoke in an earlier con- 
nection that excess of logic which would lead a Fichte to 
say, if my wife must die of the truth, let her die. 

Formalism, as thus interpreted, necessarily admits of no 
exceptions and will not permit of testing moral principles 
by their consequences. But life is complex and changing, 
and consists of exceptional cases in the sense that it is made 
up of particular actions, and particular actions are always 
performed in particular circumstances. It is a fundamental 
moral principle that murder is wrong, but who would say 
that the English officer, who in the Indian mutiny killed 
his wife to prevent her falling into the hands of the muti- 
nous Sepoys, did wrong? Again, it is wrong to tell lies, but 
under certain circumstances it may be quite right, as we 
have seen, to speak falsely with the intention of deceiving. 
In war it is quite right for a captured soldier to give false 
information to his captors. Perhaps conventional morality 
will exclaim, "O, but I don't call that murder, I don't call 
that a lie." But they arc deliberate taking of human life 


and deliberate speaking with intention to deceive. The re- 
spective duties, to respect life and to tell the truth, have 
simply been over-born by higher duties. Are moral laws 
then made simply to be broken? Hardly so. They do hold, 
on the whole. But they remain in the last analysis condi- 
tional and thus hypothetical. 

The extreme rigorism inherent in formalism easily leads 
to forms of moral fanaticism and sentimentalism that are 
out of touch with actuality. The fanaticism possible we 
have already seen. The principle of duty for duty's sake, 
without reference to the meaning of that duty, leads to 
such moral grotesques as inhuman sacrifice of life to the 
abstract ideal of truth. It is in connection with a similar prin- 
ciple of "virtue for virtue's sake" that an unpleasant element 
of sentimentalism may enter into the moral life. During 
the World War, for instance, one frequently heard the 
war, with all its horror and brutality, justified because of 
certain virtues it was supposed to bring out in men. "The 
war is already won," cried one moralist, "in that it has 
shown the capacity of man for loyalty and self-sacrifice!' 7 
Quite apart from the question of the actual moralizing or 
demoralizing character of war, the mere fact that the 
human mind could "rationalize" the war in this way shows 
the lengths to which a conception of morality of this sort 
may go. Morality was made for man, not man for morality; 
and when this normal relation is perverted it leads to sen- 
timentalism, as unreal as it is cruel and callous. In his 
play, Brand y Ibsen has satirized his conception of morality 
in an unforgettable manner. 


It seems certain, therefore, that there can be no satis- 
factory practical test of moral Tightness and wrongness 
that is exclusively formal. That which is true in all our 
practical reasoning about moral situations becomes all the 


more evident when we look at the problem theoretically. 
It can be shown that Kant's own principle or criterion pre- 
supposes teleology. 

Let us look again at his principle from this point of view. 
It is of course perfectly true that no rational man can will 
that stealing or adultery should become universal. It is 
evident that, if he can not will these things to be laws 
universal, he can not rationally will them for himself. And 
such an impartial way of viewing the situation constitutes, 
as we have said, a good negative guide to conduct. But 
the moral sceptic, and the critical thinker in general, may 
properly ask, why not will that men should generally break 
their promises, steal their neighbor's goods, and commit 
adultery with their neighbors' wives? Kant would answer 
that such action is repugnant to reason, and in this he is 
right. But it is repugnant to reason only if it can be shown 
that the institutions of property and the monogamous family 
are rational that is, that they are the necessary conditions 
or instruments for the realization of human welfare, how- 
ever we may define it. 

It is important to emphasize this last phase of the argu- 
ment. Kant's principle of universality actually assumes or 
presupposes the good or value of these institutions, the 
norms of which our moral reason tells us we must not 
violate. No reasons for the good or value of these things 
can, however, be given which are not of a teleological 
nature. No theory of morals can stop short of asking these 
questions why are these things good? Any theory of mo- 
rality must ultimately become teleological. In the preceding 
chapter we saw that the range of variation in moral judg- 
ment, though considerable with regard to particular acts, 
is comparatively limited when it comes to types or classes 
of acts. Even here, however, important divergences occur. 
For one man the institution of private property is the 
sacred foundation of society, for another it is the source 


of all injustice. For one man the institution of the per- 
manent monogamous family is the condition of human wel- 
fare; for another it is the fruitful cause of inhuman and 
unnatural restrictions. The real problem of morals is not 
the discovery of a formal test for the Tightness or wrongness 
of particular acts, but the determination of the value of 
the institutions or the forms of life with which our duties 
are connected and which they presuppose. We must con- 
clude then, that morality is hypothetical in the large sense 
that the principle of universality presupposes teleology. 


The idea of morality embodied in the theory of for- 
malism is, as we have said, so wide-spread and of such great 
influence and power that we can scarcely dismiss it as a 
mere superstition or as due simply to fallacies of thought. 
The fact that it is a part of "common sense/' in one of its 
moods at least, suggests that it expresses one important 
aspect of the truth. The peculiarly able way in which Kant 
thought out this theory makes it possible for us to deter- 
mine this truth. Kant's analysis of morality has fixed 
clearly certain things which can not be obscured by his own 
inadequacies and inconsistencies, or disproved by any later 
developments of thought. 

That which formalistic theories, of whatever type, have 
always stood for is the objectivity of morality in other 
words, that moral distinctions are not a matter of personal 
feeling, and right and wrong not a matter of mere opinion. 
In this, the present writer believes, they have had a sound 
insight, although they have not always expressed it satis- 
factorily. In some sense, right and wrong are part of the 
nature of things. We shall attempt to formulate a concep- 
tion of moral objectivity in Chapter XVI. 

In the second place, formalistic theories have always stood 
for a distinction between morality and expediency. Kant, 


as well as other formalists, has made this difference clear. 
Although a teleological theory may be ultimately necessary 
in ethics, it will not do to interpret teleology in terms of 
mere expediency or utility. One of the grave difficulties 
that always besets any practical application of teleological 
reasoning is the tendency to debase it into the principle 
that "the end justifies the means." 

In the third place, Kant has shown that somewhere in 
our moral experience there must be an element of inherent 
or intrinsic value. He was doubtless wrong in seeking it in 
specific norms or laws of morals, or in some universal logical 
principle that embodied these norms. But he was right in 
the idea itself. Moral reasoning must be teleological, not 
merely formal, reasoning from ends to means and from 
means to ends. But it remains true that somewhere in that 
reasoning we must come to ends that are good in them- 
selves. There must be intrinsic good somewhere. Kant 
grasped this point clearly and no student can go far in 
the understanding of morality without seeing it also. 

Intrinsic value has been attributed to mere "life" as 
such, to the pleasurable state of consciousness accompanying 
life and its processes and to self -hood or character realized 
in life. To the examination of these conceptions we shall 
now turn. 



* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. I. 
H. Sidgwick, History of Ethics. 

* R. A. P. Rogers, A Short History of Ethics. 
R. M. Wenley, Stoicism. 

* R. D. Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean. 

Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 


* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. I. 

* W. Fite, An Introductory Study of Ethics, Chap. IX. 


* W. K. Wright, General Introduction to Ethics, Chaps. XI 

and XII. 

James Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, Part II, Box I. 
Henry Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, Bk. III. 
H. Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. 1, Chap. IV. 
G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica. 


Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics 
of Morals and Critical Examination of Practical Reason 
(both translated by T. K. Abbott, in Kant's Theory of 

F. Paulsen, Immanuel Kant, (trans.) pp. 296, 342. 

J. W. Scott, Kant on the Moral Life. 



There are, as we have seen, only two possible forms of 
teleological ethics, Hedonism and Perfectionism. In his 
Methods of Ethics (p. 115) Sidgwick says: "I shall there- 
fore confidently lay down that if there be any good other 
than happiness to be sought by man as an ultimate prac- 
tical end, it can only be the goodness, perfection or excel- 
lence of human nature. " In this Sidgwick is undoubtedly 
right. To these two views all possible variants ultimately 

Now of these two views the most immediate and natural 
is that the end is pleasure, happiness, blessedness, or what- 
ever other synonym we may choose. It is, so to speak, the 
native form in which any reasoning on means and ends finds 
expression. It is, in a sense, part of common sense. More- 
over, it is the ruling conception of a large part of classical 
ethics when it first became a reasoned system of thought, 
a system of values, and it is the ruling conception also of 
a large part of ethics today. The presumption is therefore 
in its favor. It must receive our first and most serious 

The reason for its first place in common sense and theory 
alike, is obvious. If we think in terms of utility, we value 
our actions for the results they bring forth for ourselves 
and others. What more natural than that we should ask 
whether in this series of means and ends, of causes and 
effects, there is not a final term for which the others are 
there? And what more natural again, than that this final 



term should be found in the state of feeling, in the satis- 
faction which the fulfillment of desires and the realization 
of the proximate ends brings about? Thus it is that Sidg- 
wick, in choosing between the two possible forms of teleo- 
logical ethics, comes to this conclusion: "When we sit down 
in a cool hour and ask what it is that is good and valuable 
in itself, we find that it must be a pleasurable state of con- 

This is the ethical theory called hedonism, and it con- 
sists in making ultimate value, or the good or valuable in 
itself, identical with a pleasurable state of consciousness. 
We have already seen how this is done in the case of certain 
arguments in the Bollenger baby case. When, it was held, 
u a child takes all the pleasure out of life for the parents, 
and is not beautiful or even good to look at, and is helpless, 
I think such a person should not be allowed to give un- 
happiness to the living." 


It is precisely because of the natural character of this 
theory that it is the earliest to find expression in the thought 
of the Western world. It is customary to think of Socrates 
as the first reflective moralist, and when he began to try 
to give reasons for the good he expressed himself in lan- 
guage that was hedonistic in character. So natural is this 
view that Aristotle in the Nicomachcean Ethics admits 
that "verbally there is very general agreement" (as to what 
is the good); "for both the general run of men and people 
of superior refinement say that it is happiness and identify 
living well and doing well with being happy. To say that 
happiness is the chief good seems a platitude." 1 

But whereas Plato and Aristotle start with this platitude 
they find, on more careful analysis, that the good is not in 

1 Aristotle (Modern Students Library). W. D. Ross, p. 220. 


the pleasurable state, but in the activity or functioning of 
which pleasure is the accompaniment or sign. Certain of 
the Greek philosophers, on the other hand, found the good 
in the pleasurable state itself. The Cyrenaics, following 
Socrates, and later the Epicureans, were the representatives 
of hedonism proper. Epicureanism exerted a profound in- 
fluence on Greek life and thought and also made its power 
deeply felt in the period of the Roman empire. 

With the advent of Christianity, hedonism gradually de- 
clined and ceased to be accepted. It was not only out of 
harmony with Christian ideals of life, but the Christian 
thought of medieval times was so completely under the 
dominance of Plato and Aristotle that their ethical ideals 
and theories were accepted also. It was not until the Renais- 
sance that hedonism regained its influence. In the seven- 
teenth century it was resurrected again, chiefly by Hobbes 
and Locke, and from this time on, it has been an influential 
theory, especially among English speaking moralists and 
philosophers. Hume, Paley, and especially Bentham and 
Mill, have contributed the most in modern times to the 
revival of hedonism. 

In recent times hedonism has been chiefly associated 
with what is called Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism (in this 
restricted sense) holds that the end of human action is 
happiness or pleasure, and that what determines the good 
or bad of human action is the pleasure or pain that result 
from our actions. In his famous work, Utilitarianism, J. S. 
Mill states the essence of his creed in the following forceful 
words: "It is the creed which accepts as the foundation of 
morals utility, or the greatest happiness principle, and holds 
that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote 
happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of 
happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the ab- 
sence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of 
pleasure. " 


In the last quarter of the nineteenth century utilitarian- 
ism underwent a series of profound changes through the 
application of the theory of evolution to ethics. The main 
effect has been, as we shall see in the next chapter, to mini- 
mize the importance of hedonism, but in so far as evolu- 
tionists have remained hedonists, the result has been to 
reduce pleasure from the role of the end of conduct to that 
of criterion. For Herbert Spencer, to take but one example, 
the end of moral development is simply the development of 
life itself. If we ask, however, what criterion tells us whether 
an action makes for this development, the answer is pleas- 
ure and pain. 


One of the most impressive reasons, at first sight, for hold- 
ing that value and pleasure are identical is the fact, as it 
is supposed, that every one does actually seek pleasure as 
his ultimate motive or object. This theory that pleasure is 
the motive of every act is called Psychological Hedonism. 

The classical statement is that of Jeremy Bentham who 
said: "Nature has placed mankind under the dominance of 
two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain. It is for them 
alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to deter- 
mine what we shall do." This generalization regarding hu- 
man nature and human motives is thought to be in a way 
similar to such generalizations as the law of gravitation or 
conservation of energy and thus to afford a psychological 
or scientific basis for human conduct and its evaluation. 
We shall have to ask two questions regarding it: (i) Is it 
true? Is it a fundamental psychological law? and (2) Even 
if it were true, would it form the basis for what is called 
Ethical Hedonism? 

There are certain facts that make this generalization at 
first sight highly plausible. The first group are such as com- 
mon sense always and immediately brings to our attention. 


It is certainly true that many do pursue pleasure and that 
all men consciously seek pleasure at times. Is it not then 
probable that we are always really under the control of 
this motive, as Bentham insists, but that we often conceal 
our true motives, not only from others, but also from our- 
selves, by the camouflage of such words as duty, virtue, self 
development, etc.? A .certain French cyjiic remarked that all 
human motives could be reduced to three: hunger, lust and 
envy. Cynical hedonism is but the carrying out of this sim- 
plification of human motives one step further all being 
reduced to the single dichotomy of seeking of pleasure and 
avoidance of pain. 

In the second place, morality must be teachable, and 
moral education seems to proceed by the sanctions of 
pleasure and pain. In the childhood of both individual and 
race, it is by appeal to these motives that practical morality 
is uniformly taught. Is it not then highly probable that 
just such a mechanism of human motivation as Bentham 
describes must be presupposed? 


The facts just brought to our attention are not to be 
denied; it is rather a question of determining their signifi- 
cance. It is, in the first place, true enough that we are con- 
stantly deceiving ourselves in the slang of the present day, 
"rationalizing" our conduct. It may be that when we sup- 
pose ourselves to have other motives than the desire to 
secure pleasure and to avoid pain, we are really deceiving 
ourselves, and it is certainly the part of wisdom to be 
realistic in this matter and to face the facts. It is also true 
that a large part of social discipline and control seems to 
be achieved only by what we call appeal to the "lowest mo- 
tives," namely pleasure and pain, ^he deterrent theory of 
punishment is, for instance, based upo^if Ihfs ^assumption, 
and it may be that, in reality, all of us are constrained to 


do "good" and deterred from doing "evil," only by motives 
of this kind. What then are the facts in the case? 

It may be said in the first place, that most modern 
ethical thinkers, even those who uphold the standpoint that 
happiness or pleasure is the ultimate value, do not agree 
with Bentham on this point. In other words, they hold that, 
while Bentham was right in holding that it is for pleasure 
and pain to determine what we ought to do, they do not, 
as a matter of fact, necessarily always determine what we 
shall do. Modern psychological analysis seems to justify 
that position and it seems quite generally agreed that Ben- 
tham's generalization was based on faulty analysis and 
"bad psychology." 

It seems beyond question that a large part of human 
behavior is not consciously motivated by the desire for 
pleasure and the fear of unpleasantness or pain. What we 
call instinctive and habitual actions certainly have no such 
conscious motivation. In a large part of our behavior at 
least, the desire to secure pleasure and to avoid pain is not 
part of the cause or motive of the act. It is true that the 
satisfaction of instinct and the repetition of habit are nor- 
mally accompanied by pleasure, and their inhibition by 
pain or unpleasantness. But the result is not the cause. 
Psychological hedonism in these cases places the cart before 
the horse, by explaining tendency in terms of an antecedent 
pleasure. The very opposite is the truth. Pleasure does not 
precede tendency or end, but depends upon a prior tendency 
or end. 

But how about acts of deliberate choice? it will be asked. 
For after all it is with this type of acts that ethics is pri- 
marily, if not wholly, concerned. Appetites and habits come 
into the field of morals only in so far as they are conceived 
to be the resultants of such choice. Surely here the desire for 
pleasure and the avoidance of unpleasantness and pain are 


the conscious conditions of choice of actions, and this law 
of motivation holds for all morally significant behavior. 

Before considering this question more closely, it should 
be noted that in the very form of statement of this ques- 
tion a very important assumption is made, namely that 
there is deliberate choice, in other words the assumption or 
postulate of the freedom of the will, in some sense. This is 
not the place to take up this question, but simply to point 
out that freedom is just this ability to have conscious mo- 
tives. Psychological hedonism holds, then, that whenever 
we have conscious motives, these are found reducible to 
the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Is this 
statement psychologically true? 

There are certain stock illustrations which are constantly 
used when this present question is under discussion. We 
are asked to consider a mother sacrificing herself for the 
sake of her child; a man deliberately risking his life to save 
another human being from drowning; or a martyr choosing 
rather to be burned at the stake than to renounce the truth 
or his God. Common sense, our ordinary sound human 
understanding, is never in any doubt in such cases. Surely, 
these are "disinterested" actions. Surely, the mother, the 
hero, or the martyr, as the case may be, are not consciously 
seeking their own pleasure. Yet the psychological hedonist 
must, of necessity, insist that they are. Does not, he tri- 
umphantly asks, the mother get pleasure out of her sacrifice, 
or the martyr out of his choice? To this common sense an- 
swers, "certainly." Was not then the pleasure or happiness 
the object or motive of the acts in question? Surely not, 
common sense replies. They never once thought of them- 
selves and their own pleasure at all. 

And surely common sense is right. Surely common sense 
is here the better psychologist. Only a mind blinded by 
theory could, we feel, so distort the facts of human con- 
sciousness. We feel ourselves in agreement with Gilbert 


Chesterton when he says, that the utilitarian who so dis- 
tends the meaning of the word selfishness as to say that a 
man is self-indulgent when he wahts to be burned at the 
stake, is talking nonsense. He may indeed give us an illogi- 
cal kick, as Chesterton further says, by using a bad word 
for what is better expressed in better words, but if we 
actually took him seriously, as fortunately we do not, all 
intelligible moral meanings would cease. 

It is really not difficult to put one's finger on the fallacies 
that underlie this generalization of Bentham's. Perhaps the 
most obvious is one pointed out by William James when 
he says, that to argue that because all our acts are accom- 
panied by feelings of pleasure and pain, therefore they are 
the motives of our acts, is like arguing that because an ocean 
liner constantly consumes coal on its passage, therefore the 
purpose of its voyage is to consume coal. A somewhat more 
subtle fallacy has been pointed out by various critics when 
they say that the psychological hedonist fails to distinguish 
between "pleasure in idea" and the "idea of pleasure." Be- 
cause a mother takes pleasure in self-sacrifice for her child, 
in the idea of her child's welfare, it does not at all follow 
that it is an idea of pleasure, of her own pleasure, that con- 
stitutes the motive of her act. 

The student should be cautioned here against misinter- 
preting this criticism of psychological hedonism. In order 
to disprove Bentham's generalization it is not necessary to 
show that deliberate pleasure seeking is not a human mo- 
tive that the idea of pleasure is not an important moving 
force in human life. We may say that some men seem to 
seek pleasure all the time; and all men seek pleasure part 
of the time. It may even be legitimate to seek pleasure for 
its own sake at times. To refute the principle of Bentham 
it is only necessary to disprove the universality of the pleas- 
ure motive, and for that very little knowledge of human 
behavior is sufficient. 



Nietzsche, with his customary mordant wit, has said, 
"Mankind does not desire happiness; only the Englishman 
does that/ 7 Although manifestly unfair, this quip is in so 
far true that it is largely as the result of English utilitarian- 
ism that this falsification of human nature by theory has 
come about. Psychological hedonism rrlust be rejected as 
inadequate to explain the facts of human conduct. En- 
lightened common sense and a really understanding psy- 
chology agree on that point. 

But this by no means disposes of hedonism as a theory 
of moral value, or of the happiness theory as a philosophy 
of life. Indeed it has been pointed out that the very fact 
that we do not always seek pleasure as our end might be 
the very ground for saying that we ought to seek it. We 
usually say that we ought to do a thing only because we 
often do not do it. Pleasure might be the true and ultimate 
value of life, and our seeking other ends and our employ- 
ment of other standards might be the result of stupidity 
or self-deception with regard to the nature of our own 

Ethical hedonism then, as distinguished from the psy- 
chological formulation of the theory, claims, not that we 
necessarily always do have pleasure as the ultimate motive 
of all our acts, but that we ought to, and that if we were al- 
ways reasonable we should. The grounds for this claim are 
that if we try to think out wherein the good or value ulti- 
mately consists we are forced to the conclusion that they 
can consist only in pleasure. In the words of Sidgwick, 
already quoted, "When we sit down in a cool hour and ask 
ourselves what it is that is good or valuable in itself, we find 
that it must be a pleasurable state of consciousness. " Ethi- 
cal hedonism, in the strict meaning of the words, always 
does, and indeed must, necessarily identify ultimate value 


with pleasure. For it pleasure and value are the same 

Before examining the grounds for this contention let us 
note that there are other possible ways of conceiving the 
relation of pleasure to value. No one doubts that there is 
some close relation between the two, but there is great 
difference as to what the nature of that relation is. It is 
entirely possible that wherever there is realized value a 
pleasurable state of consciousness is always present, but it 
might be merely the accompaniment or sign of the value, 
and not the value itself. Again, it might be that a pleasur- 
able state of consciousness is a necessary part of any value, 
but not the whole of the value. The point is that for hedon- 
ism it is necessary that the two concepts should be con- 
sidered as identical. 


We have seen in our earlier analysis of judgments of 
right and wrong, that one of the reasons commonly given 
is that the acts in question lead to happiness or unhappiness. 
The assumption clearly is that it is this fact that gives 
them their value, positive and negative. It is also assumed 
that we know without any question that it is in happiness 
or pleasure that intrinsic value is to be found. In other 
words, common sense tells us immediately or intuitively that 
the only thing good in itself is a pleasurable state of con- 
sciousness. Our first question then is whether this is the 
actual deliverance of common sense whether the ordinary 
good sense of mankind is hedonistic, as it appears to be? 

The only answer to the question is to interrogate our com- 
mon sense more closely in order to see whether it has actu- 
ally understood itself. In a well-known passage of his 
Ethics, Paulsen has attempted to press this interrogation 
more deeply and comes to the conclusion that when com- 
mon sense appears to say that value and pleasure are iden- 


tical, it has misunderstood itself and says something quite 

Suppose, he asks, it were possible to procure a drug that 
would keep you in a continuous state of pleasurable con- 
sciousness; a drug, moreover, that had none of the deleteri- 
ous and unpleasant consequences which normally accom- 
pany drug-taking would you take it? Paulsen thinks that 
most men certainly would not, and I think that in this con- 
clusion he is undoubtedly right. The reason he gives is that 
while men may say that the only thing that is good in it- 
self is a pleasurable state of consciousness, in their heart 
they know that it is not. The state of pleasurable conscious- 
ness described is precisely the summum bonum of a hedo- 
nistic theory, if its identification of value with pleasure is 
sound. But such a life would have no meaning, for it would 
lack wholly the element of activity, of energizing and de- 
velopment of our powers, which all of us realize, intuitively 
as it were, is an essential part of the "good life." * 

For myself, I think that Paulsen is right in this analysis 
of common sense, and the argument becomes even more 
forceful if we transfer it from the realm of the individual 
to that of social value. One might conceivably choose the 
life thus described for himself, but would one choose it for 
his child? Which would he prefer, a life of pleasure or even 
of passive happiness, without struggle or accomplishment, 
or the latter even although accompanied by pain? Still more 
when we try to contemplate the ends of society or humanity 
in general, do we find it difficult to identify value with a 
pleasurable state of consciousness? What value would a 
"golden age" of comfort and pleasure have if men deteri- 
orated and became weak? It is true, we can not contemplate 
as of value a life of humanity which issued in pain and un- 
happiness, but equally difficult is it for us to contemplate 

1 E. Paulsen, System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chapter II. 


as good a life that degenerated into complete inactivity, no 
matter how pleasurable the accompanying state of con- 
sciousness might be. 

The point of Paulsen's illustration, and of the argument 
drawn from it, is this. Common sense does not actually find 
the locus of value in the pleasurable state, but in the ac- 
tivity, the functioning, of which the pleasurable state is 
the accompaniment. It may appear to find it in the pleas- 
urable state of consciousness, as Sidgwick maintains, but 
it is merely in appearance. The functioning, the complete 
development and energizing of our capacities, are not means 
to value but are the value. 


It is sometimes maintained, in reply to this argument, 
that the refusal to choose the drug under these circum- 
stances represents not the choice of something else in place 
of pleasure, but rather of one kind of pleasure over another. 
The pleasure afforded by the hypothetical drug may indeed 
be constant and uninterrupted, it may also be free from 
the element of displeasure that normally accompanies the 
taking of a drug, but it lacks the quality that belongs to 
the pleasure that accompanies activity or the energizing of 
our natural functions. In other words, common sense is not 
choosing something else rather than pleasure, but merely 
one kind of pleasure in place of another, a higher rather 
than a lower pleasure. 

It can not be denied that this counter-argument has a 
very real appearance of truth; to some it seems to take 
the force out of the drug argument. As a matter of fact, 
the idea underlying this reply has been made the basis of 
a famous modification of the hedonistic theory, namely 
John Stuart Mill's theory of Qualitative Hedonism, or the 
doctrine of different kinds of pleasure. We shall therefore 


consider the present question in connection with an exam- 
ination of this theory. 

Mill's theory has become famous in the history of ethical 
thought for two reasons. For some, because it appears to 
be a needed correction of ordinary hedonism; for others, 
because it appears to them to be virtually an abandonment 
of hedonism. Although professedly a hedonist, and a rep- 
resentative of the English utilitarianism derived from Ben- 
tham, Mill would, the latter maintains, were he consistent, 
give up the hedonistic position. 

Mill's point is that the old-fashioned hedonism does not 
correspond to the facts of human nature and of common 
sense. For Bentham, pleasures are essentially homogeneous, 
differing only quantitatively, chiefly, although not wholly, 
in their intensity. Mill holds that they are intrinsically 
heterogeneous, differing in essential quality also. There is 
a fundamental difference between those pleasures that are 
most intense and those which are "higher" or "best worth 
having." The criterion of superiority in the second of these 
two senses is the choice of the rational human subject gov- 
erned, as Mill says, "by his native sense of dignity. Better 
a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied." 1 

Mill is generally supposed in the foregoing position to 
have unwittingly introduced a standard of value inconsistent 
with his profession of hedonism, and it seems clear that 
he has. It is tr-ue that in one sense this does not follow. 
If it is desire of it that makes pleasure the good, then the 
preference of one pleasure over another will make that 
pleasure better whether it is intensity or some other stand- 
ard that is employed. But to say this is, I think, to miss 
the main point, which is that, in Mill's theory, the standard 
is taken from some other sphere than pleasure itself. Now 

*J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism, 1863, Chapter II. 


practically we are, of course, much more interested in the 
relative good of things, in the scale of values, than 
in the abstract question of the nature of the good itself. 
But this is true of ethical theory also. We are interested 
in determining the nature of the good or value, only that 
we may use our knowledge in establishing standards or 
criteria. Mill's position docs abandon pleasure as a criterion 
of preference. Although he still speaks of the good as pleas- 
ure, the qualitative differences in the good are determined 
by the nature of the Self for whom the pleasure is a pleasure. 
A higher self of more "dignity" determines the quality of 
one experience, a lower self of less dignity the quality of 
another. But if the standard comes from something outside 
the experience itself, then the good does not lie in the 
merely pleasurable experience as such. 

Mill's modification of hedonism is merely saying in other 
and more technical words what Paulsen sought to show 
by the drug illustration. He is championing healthy common 
sense against the demands of mere consistency and logic. 
But whereas Paulsen rightly sees that it means the abandon- 
ment of hedonism, Mill is not willing to draw these con- 
sequences. A consistent hedonist, one who finds the locus 
of moral value in the pleasureable state of consciousness as 
such, should seek the standard of value there also. This 
Mill does not do. 


Enlightened common sense seems then to be quite clear 
on this major point in the refusal to identify value com- 
pletely with a pleasurable state of consciousness. This 
judgment of common sense receives further confirmation 
when we turn to the more logical and technical analysis of 

There are, we have seen, three and only three ways of 
conceiving the relation of pleasure to value. They may be 


thought of as identical, as in hedonism. Or the pleasurable 
state may be thought of as a necessary part of value but 
not the whole of the value. Finally, it may be thought of 
as the accompaniment or sign of the realization of value. 
It is the third notion that has emerged as the result of the 
preceding analysis. 

We may with advantage connect the results of this 
analysis with our definitions of value in the introductory 
chapter. The first definition characterized it as anything 
that satisfies a human want or desire. Satisfaction shows 
itself, however, only in feeling and this feeling, of pleasure 
or displeasure, is easily taken for the positive or negative 
value itself. But deeper analysis shows us that the feeling 
is understandable only as the sign of something more ulti- 
mate in the first instance of biological functioning. We are 
thus led to the idea that value is anything that enhances 
or conserves life. This second definition is however not 
satisfactory. Mere life is not an end in itself but has value 
merely as the means of realizing other ends which we call 
good. In any case, however we may ultimately conceive 
value, it can not be identified with the pleasurable state 

The fundamental error of hedonism, writes Professor R. 
B. Perry, 1 "lies in its failure to distinguish between the 
concept of goodness and that object, namely pleasure, to 
which the concept is supposed uniquely to apply." In other 
words, the concept of goodness or value is more ultimate 
than pleasure, pleasure being at most only one among other 
objects to which it is applied. The value of pleasure is never 
denied by the opponents of hedonism. They merely deny 
that pleasure is the only value. 

To this entire argument the hedonist has a reply that at 
first sight seems very hard to overcome. We find the cri- 
terion of good or value in something else than pleasure 

1 R. B. Perry, General Theory of Value, p. 607. 


something more objective, in the perfection of life, in self- 
realization, or what not. Immediately the question is asked: 
if behavior of this type consistently brought pain rather 
than pleasure, would you call it good? The disputant is 
forced to answer, no. The triumphant reply then is: Have 
you not then identified the good with pleasure and the bad 
with its opposite? 

The same kind of argument is often applied in the sphere 
of esthetics. The beautiful is defined in some objective way, 
such as the harmonious, or significant form. The question is 
asked, does this harmony or form bring pleasure or does it 
not? If it did not bring pleasure would you call it beautiful? 

The fallacy in such argumentation, although not imme- 
diately obvious, is clear to logical thought. The fact that 
an object is good or beautiful for some other reason does 
not prevent it being at the same time congruous with our 
instincts and tendencies. Whatever is thus congruous of 
course brings pleasure. There is no experience of the good 
or the beautiful without feeling, but it does not follow that 
the essence of the good or beautiful lies in the feeling. The 
situation is the same as that which appears in connection 
with knowledge itself. There is no object known except 
through states of consciousness of the knower, his sensa- 
tions and ideas. But it does not follow that either the ex- 
istence or the character of the object is identical with these 
states of consciousness. 


In the preceding paragraphs we have pointed out what 
seem to be the chief theoretical weaknesses in hedonism 
as a teleological theory of the good, or of the locus of moral 
value. The proof or disproof of an ethical theory is, how- 
ever, to be found ultimately in its ability or inability to 
explain or interpret the facts of the moral life our actual 
moral judgments and the moral norms expressed in those 


judgments. Of hedonism, as of formalism, we shall have to 
ask whether it affords a practical guide in the conduct of 
life, a satisfactory test of right and wrong. In raising this 
final question we may with profit consider a further argu- 
ment of which critics of hedonism have made extended use 
throughout the history of ethical thinking. It consists in 
pointing out what is called the hedonistic paradox which is 
held to show conclusively that hedonistic thinking is both 
practically and theoretically fallacious. 

A paradox is defined, in the first instance, as an opinion 
surprising and repugnant to the ordinary mind. It is felt 
to be thus both surprising and repugnant because it is 
thought to contain something contrary to experience or 
something self-contradictory. Such a paradox is held by 
much of the practical wisdom of the world to lie inherently 
in any attempt to make pleasure the end of conduct and to 
identify pleasure with value. Experience teaches us that 
the surest way to miss happiness is to seek it, that pleasure- 
seeking is essentially a self-defeating process. 

There can be scarcely any question that this last state- 
ment embodies much of practical human wisdom. Bernard 
Shaw has expressed this wisdom epigrammatically in one 
of his "Maxims for Revolutionists" in the appendix to 
Alan and Superman: "Pleasure and beauty are by-products. 
Folly is the pursuit of pleasure or beauty for their own 
sakes." To follow a line of action which is self-defeating 
would properly be described as folly. But if pursuit of 
pleasure (or beauty) for their own sakes turns out to be 
practically a self-defeating process, it must be because we 
are, so to speak, not meant to pursue them thus. 

Practically this wisdom has arisen from experiences of 
a very definite kind. Pleasure follows normally upon the 
satisfaction of desires. But the pursuit of pleasure, for its 
own sake, means the deliberate stimulation of the instinc- 
tive and sensuous tendencies that underlie these desires, 


and such deliberate stimulation results inevitably in satiety 
and the dulling of our sensitivity for stimuli. These are 
simply well-recognized psychological facts and the penalty 
of abnormal and feverish pleasure-seeking in the sphere of 
what we call bodily pleasures is too generally understood 
to require consideration. It is precisely because of these 
facts that more enlightened hedonists, such as Epicurus, 
counsel the seeking of the higher pleasures which do not 
entail this result. But here also the deeper wisdom of the 
race can not be gainsaid. Pursuit, even of beauty or of 
knowledge consciously for the pleasure to be gotten out 
of them, palls also. The truth seems to be that what we 
call happiness is a by-product of a rich and full life, and 
to turn from life itself to its by-product brings with it 
ultimately disillusionment and distaste. 


Now if the practical wisdom of the race is to be trusted, 
it seems likely that hedonism is not a sound guide to con- 
duct, in the sense that pleasure for its own sake is made the 
end of life. Our ends are our happiness, not merely means 
to happiness. When we abstract the subject state from the 
realization of ends of which it is merely the accompaniment, 
we pay the penalty of any form of abstraction from life. 

Many utilitarians would agree that pleasure can not be 
made the object of direct seeking without more or less de- 
feating the end sought. They might, however, maintain that 
this is not the way they use the pleasure principle in ethics. 
They are not concerned so much with setting up an object 
or summum bonum for the individual to pursue, as to dis- 
cover a practical criterion for distinguishing between good 
and bad in behavior. This they find in the principle of "the 
greatest happiness for the greatest number." Most utili- 
tarians would be found to hold a position somewhat as 
follows. It can be shown that the ordinary norms of morals, 


the standards of everyday life, on the whole make for 
human happiness. When exceptions from these rules seem 
to be necessary, it is possible to justify them by show- 
ing that such exceptions will bring a greater amount of 
happiness than adherence to the rules. In short, a calculation 
of pleasures, called the hedonic calculus, is possible and the 
right or wrong of behavior can be determined by such 

It is at this point, without doubt, that both the prac- 
tical weakness and the theoretical fallacies of hedonism 
appear in full clearness. It is conceivable that it could be 
shown that the standards of the everyday moral life make 
for the greatest pleasure of the greatest number, although 
that is really a very difficult thing to prove. But as to any 
calculus by means of which we may determine whether an 
act, e.g., an exception to such a norm, will bring a surplus 
of pleasure in the future, that is clearly impossible. 

The reason for this situation lies in what we have found 
to be the essentially subjective character of pleasure. A cal- 
culation, such as here contemplated, would involve the add- 
ing of things which in their very nature are not susceptible 
of addition. Bontham, the inaugurator of this entire way of 
thinking, admitted to himself in a manuscript that remained 
unpublished until recently, the intrinsic absurdity of this 
idea. He writes: 

" 'Tis in vain to talk of adding quantities which after the 
addition, will continue distinct as they were before, one 
man's happiness will never be another man's happiness; a 
gain to one man is no gain to another; you might as well 
pretend to add 20 apples to 20 years." But so confirmed 
is he in his theory that he finds it necessary to continue: 
"This addibility of the happiness of different subjects, how- 
ever, when it is considered rigorously, it may appear ficti- 
tious, is a postulatum without the allowance of which all 
political reasoning is at a stand . . ." It remains to be 


seen whether political reasoning, i.e., the determination of 
rights and duties and of justice, depends on this postulate 
or fiction. We shall attempt to show that such thinking can 
proceed much better on another theory of the nature of the 
good. It is important here merely to recognize that Bentham 
himself saw the weakness of the pleasure theory and the 
fictitious character of the calculations he proposed. 1 


Common sense and enlightened theory seem, then, to 
agree that the locus of value is not to be found in the 
pleasurable state of consciousness as such, and that no 
criterion of relative value can be formed without going 
beyond the pleasurable state to the nature of the objects 
which condition the subjective state, and to the character of 
the functions, the realization or satisfaction of which is 
accompanied by pleasure. 

The difficulty with hedonistic theories is not that they are 
wholly untrue, but rather that they are inadequate. The 
enduring tendency of mankind to find the locus of value in 
feeling is justified in so far that feeling is an element in or 
aspect of every experience of value. But feeling by itself 
affords, as we have seen, no adequate criterion of the good; 
feeling without reference to that which produces the feeling 
can not be equated with value. The fallacy here seems to be 
the opposite of that discovered in formalism. There, the 
mere form of conduct was abstracted from the content, and 
the form alone we found could give no satisfactory criterion 
of the good. Here the content of feeling is abstracted from 
the form or type of conduct, and the mere feeling content 
can not of itself determine the good. 

We have spoken of the enduring tendency to find the 

1 For this quotation and a discussion of the manuscript referred to, see 
a paper by Wesley Claire Mitchell entitled "Postulates and Preconceptions 
of Ricardian Economics," published in Essays in Philosophy, by Smith and 
Wright, 1929. 


locus of value in the feeling. The "happiness theory" is the 
most immediate and natural expression of the teleological 
view of morals. It is the native form in which any reasoning 
on means and ends finds expression. In all probability, it will 
continue to be the idiom in which most men will express 
their conception of the good. Men will continue to put "the 
pursuit of happiness" among the human rights. Parents will 
continue to plan for their children's "happiness" when they 
mean their highest welfare. When men thus speak, shall we 
say, "no, you mean not happiness but self-realization?" That 
would be pedantic, as it would be if, when men said of the 
sun that it rises and sets, we should persist in correcting the 
vernacular in terms of the results of our more analytical 
knowledge. The important thing is to know that the sun does 
not really rise and set. Even more important is it to know 
that man's highest good is not happiness. 

Berkeley put this whole matter in an excellent way when 
in his Principles of Human Knowledge, he enunciated the 
maxim: "Speak with the vulgar, think with the learned." 
There is no real harm in speaking of the good in terms of 
happiness, if we understand fully and clearly that, as John 
Dewey says, "Our ends are our happiness, not," as is so often 
popularly believed, "merely a means to happiness." 



* J. Watson, Hedonistic Theories from An slip pus to Spencer. 
Ernest Albee, A History of English Utilitarianism. 

* Walter Pater, Mar his, The Epicurean. 

* R. D. Hicks, Stoics and Epicureans. 
A. E. Taylor, Epicurus. 

W. Wallace, Epicureanism. 

* Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion. 

* R. A. P. Rogers, A Short History of Ethics. 

Leslie Stephen, English Thought in The Eighteenth Century, 
Chap. X. 



Jeremy Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation. 

* John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism. 
Henry Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics. 
Herbert Spencer, Data of Ethics. 

* James Mackaye, Logic of Conduct, Economy of Happiness. 

* F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chaps. XVII-XXI. 


* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. II. 
James Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, Vol. II. 

* John Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XIV. 

* J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. IV. 

* Warner Fite, Introductory Study of Ethics, Part I. 
Hastings Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. I, Chaps. 

II, III, Bk. II, Chaps. I, II. 
G. E. Moore, Principle, Ethic a, Chaps. II, III. 



The logical arguments against the two theories we have 
been considering are convincing to the majority of ethical 
thinkers and it is probable that, in the last resort, in ethics, 
as in other fields of human knowledge and thought, such 
arguments will be ultimately decisive. But the actual his- 
torical causes that have progressively weakened the claims 
of both formalism and hedonism have been of another order. 
In a recent book l Professor Herbert Wildon Carr speaks of 
the "changing backgrounds of ethics," and the changes he 
has in mind refer to the difference in outlook and standpoint 
brought about by what we call evolution or evolutionism. 

There can be little question that hedonism has been 
greatly weakened by evolutionary ideas. Popular moralists, 
such as Nietzsche and Bernard Shaw, who have been in- 
fluenced by evolution, are contemptuous of the pleasure 
theory and find the good in development rather than in 
happiness, in a maximum of life rather than a maximum of 
pleasure. "Scientifically-minded" people are in general likely 
to think in this way. In the case of the Bollenger baby, we 
found that Dr. Haiselden himself justified his act on biologi- 
cal grounds, and that most of the physicians who favored 
letting the baby die argued not in terms of happiness but of 
perfection of life. In short, reverting to our initial definitions 
of value, the modern man is likely to find the locus of value, 
not in satisfaction of desire, but in adaptation of life; he 

1 Changing Backgrounds in Religion and Ethics. 



finds it truer to say that value is a biological phenomenon 
merely appearing in a psychological form. It is evolutionism 
that, for the modern man at least, has chiefly "put hedonism 
in its place. " 

To the theory that holds that the ultimate nature and 
criterion of the good is to be found in biological development 
or perfection we may give the name Naturalistic Perfection- 
ism. The right to use this term is found in a conception of 
Darwin himself, and one which is later repeated in all forms 
of biological ethics. In concluding The Origin of Species, 
Darwin himself wrote: "As natural selection works solely by 
and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental 
endowments will tend towards perfection." (Italics mine.) 
As it is this perfection that constitutes the good of each 
being, so only this can form the criterion of good. I have 
called this conception naturalistic because, in contrast to 
other theories of perfectionism, it thinks of the processes by 
which the good is achieved as purely natural, as the term 
natural selection indicates. 

The study of the "ethics of evolution" is important for 
two reasons. First, because it is only against the changing 
background, brought about by evolutionary thinking, that 
the present problems of morals can be understood. The 
second more specific reason is that the present struggle in 
ethical theory is between this form of perfectionism and 
another, called Idealistic Perfectionism. It is no longer 
between formalism and teleology, nor between hedonism and 
perfectionism, but between these two types or interpreta- 
tions of perfectionism. 



Ethics, in common with all the other sciences of life and 
mind, was profoundly affected by the publication in 1859 of 


Darwin's Origin of Species and by The Descent of Man 
which followed in 1861. For a time it seemed as though the 
whole of ethical thinking would have to be recast in the 
light of the new principles of evolution and in view of the 
changed conception of man which the new knowledge 
brought about. It was believed that for the first time we had 
come into possession of really scientific knowledge of man, 
and of his place in the universe, and that upon that knowl- 
edge a really scientific ethics, or a science of human good, 
could now be erected. 

As a matter of fact this expectation was doomed to meet 
with a large degree of disappointment. It is not wholly true 
that, as DeLaguna says, "it has served largely to introduce 
confusion," but it is true that some confusion was intro- 
duced which we are only now beginning to straighten out. 
It is also true that the naturalistic theory of perfectionism, 
based upon it, has turned out to be wholly inadequate, if 
not actually false. 

There were two points at which Darwinian evolutionism 
was expected to revolutionize ethics. In the first place, it 
was believed that evolution would be able to explain the 
origin, development and meaning of our moral customs, 
sentiments, and judgments. In the second place, it was 
believed that ethics, as a theory of value, could for the first 
time be put upon a purely scientific and naturalistic basis. 
In other words, man's place in organic nature being deter- 
mined, it would then be possible to formulate the nature of 
human good in organic terms, and thus to find standards for 
judging human behavior which are, so to speak, embedded in 
the nature of things. It is with the second point, of course, 
that we are primarily concerned. But the question of the 
"value" of behavior has been so bound up with the question 
of its origin and development that this latter question must 
be considered first. 



The question at issue, in so far as this first problem is 
concerned, is, of course, not whether morals have developed 
or evolved, but rather what have been the factors in this 
development. No one doubts the evolution of morals, in 
other words that morals have had a history. Everything that 
exists changes in some sense and to some degree. Everything 
living, at least, seems to develop from simplicity to com- 
plexity. Morality is no exception to this rule or law, if you 
choose so to call it. So far as we can see, morality began with 
simple customs (mores), developed into codified law, and 
finally reached the level of reflective morality. The conten- 
tion of the "ethics of evolution' 7 is, then, not merely that 
morality has had an origin and a history, but that the prin- 
ciple of natural selection is sufficient to account for this 

To understand the force of this contention, it is necessary 
to recall the place of natural selection in the Darwinian 
theory of evolution in general. Darwin's first work, The 
Origin of Species by Natural Selection, contended, not only 
that the various species of living creatures had originated 
in simple unicellular creatures, but that they had originated 
by a process of natural selection, which we shall define 
presently. Into this general evolutionary scheme he drew the 
human species in his second book, The Descent of Man. It 
was, however, in a third work, The Expression of Emotions 
in! Animals and Men, that evolution was applied also to the 
mmd of man. Once Darwin had been able to show the sim- 
ilarity between the emotional expressions of men and the 
lower animals, and to interpret them as survivals of formerly 
serviceable habits, the road was open to the extension of 
evolutionary conceptions to the entire mental life, including 
those ideas and sentiments which we call moral. 

The nlace of natural selection in the Darwinian theorv 


may be seen by reference to the famous formula of Darwin, 
wherein he tells us that species have originated "by natural 
selection, acting upon chance variations, leading to the sur- 
vival of the fit." The meaning of this formula is pretty 
generally understood, but there are several aspects of it 
which must be recalled and made definite if we are to see how 
it has been applied to morals. 

Natural selection, as is well known, stood in Darwin's 
mind for the opposite of artificial or purposeful selection. 
He was familiar with the breeding of animals and under- 
stood how a new species, as for instance a fan-tail pigeon, 
could be created by the fancier by the breeding of individ- 
uals who happened to have a few more feathers in their 
tails, or a new type of horse by taking advantage of varia- 
tions. The breeder of dogs or pigeons or roses can thus create 
a new species by selecting out individuals with certain varia- 
tions and breeding from them. This Darwin believed 
"Nature" did on a tremendous scale. Only in the case of 
nature the process was wholly a mechanical one of weeding 
out the unfavorable variations a process without con- 
sciousness and without purpose. Whence now the variations? 
According to Darwin they are the product of chance. Since 
Darwin's time, this explanation seems less likely, and 
various theories of their origin have been proposed. But 
however the variations originate, there is a natural selection 
acting upon these variations, which weeds out the unfit, and 
tends to leave only those which are favorable to survival, 
that is which adapt the organism or species to its environ- 
ment. This selection was conceived as taking place through 
the struggle for existence, brought about by the fact that 
living beings increase much faster than the food supply, this 
struggle serving automatically to weed out the less fit. Those 
forms of life whether plants or animals which have the 
favorable variations, tend then to survive in the struggle 
for existence. They are adapted to their environment, and 


it is this adaptation that constitutes what is called "survival 
value." This formula was originally developed to explain the 
evolution of organic species was in short primarily biologi- 
cal. But Darwin himself extended it, as we have seen, to 
psychology, and by implication at least, to morals. 


Most thoughtful men now agree that the hope of explain- 
ing the origin and development of moral customs and senti- 
ments by natural selection was extravagant. Even in the 
limited field of biology itself, natural selection is now 
believed to have played a much less important role than that 
assigned by Darwin. Other factors than "chance variation" 
and natural selection are now seen to be necessary to explain 
the origin and fixation even of new animal species. The in- 
heritance of acquired characters likewise, which constitutes 
the necessary premise of this theory, while not absolutely 
disproved, is yet very much in doubt. Into these biological 
aspects of the question we need not enter. The question for 
evolutionary ethics is of a somewhat different and much 
more fundamental character. It is rather this : can any such 
purely mechanical and unconscious forces as those described 
by the term natural selection be conceived of as sufficient to 
explain the origin and development of moral customs and 
sentiments? Present opinion is overwhelmingly in the nega- 

If we confine our attention to what we may call the lower 
levels of morality, to the objective mores, we get an over- 
whelming impression of primitive morality as just such a 
product of natural selection. A sketch of the morality of the 
Eskimos, as presented by the Danish explorer Amundsen, 
gives us a picture of customs the meaning of which seems to 
lie wholly in their survival value, and the origin of which, we 
can scarcely doubt, must be found in that fierce struggle for 
existence which constitutes their life. Thus the capital crime 


is stealing from the common hoard of blubber, on which the 
life of the community depends. Similarly, a study of the 
primitive forms of property and marriage, such as we find 
in Westermarck, suggests that they are precisely such forms 
as we should expect if some such principle as that of natural 
selection were at work. 

Additional plausibility is contributed to this theory by the 
close resemblance of such behavior of human beings on the 
lower levels with the behavior of the higher animals, a 
resemblance so close that it has led many to speak of the 
"morality" of these higher animals and to see no break in 
the evolutionary process. Thus, the behavior of a herd of 
buffaloes in the face of the enemy. We are told that the bulls 
take their places in a formation designed to protect the 
cows and the calves, an instinctive form of behavior which 
it is hard to believe has come into being in any other way 
than through a process of selection "designed," as it were 
to bring about the survival of the species. Moreover, a study 
of the higher apes, such as that of Kohler, seems to reveal 
as present in them, not only forms of intelligence similar to 
those of man, but also animal mores in many ways akin to 
those of primitive man. 

Enough has been said to indicate both the type and the 
force of the evidence that can be adduced in favor of the 
theory that natural selection, with its principle of survival 
value, has been, if not the only factor, at least an important 
factor in the origin and development of primitive morality. 
There seems no good reason to doubt that there is a close 
correlation between moral value and survival value that 
right conduct is that form of behavior that leads to the 
survival of the species in the struggle for existence and 
wrong conduct that which leads to extinction. It is, however, 
when we come to the higher or more developed levels of 
morality that we find the correlation vague and very difficult 
to determine. Many forms of conduct can not be explained 


in terms of fitness for environment, in terms of their utility 
in furthering merely organic life. If natural morality is of 
this nature, then, in the terms of Nietzsche's famous phrase, 
morality has become denaturalized. What Nietzsche meant 
by this phrase is precisely the fact here emphasized, namely 
that the morality developed in the historical life of man is 
no longer the natural morality we should expect on this 
hypothesis. In Nietzsche's mind, to be sure, most of the later 
morality of man was an aberration, but he at least recognized 
the fact that it could not be explained in terms of natural 

We have spoken of the overwhelming impression which 
we get of primitive morality as a product of natural selec- 
tion. If we study the higher levels of morality we get an 
equally overwhelming impression of the inadequacy, not to 
say the absurdity, of such an explanation. Huxley, himself a 
famous protagonist and popularizer of Darwinism in biology, 
was so impressed with this fact that it led him to extreme 
statements in the other direction. In his famous Romanes 
Lecture on Evolution and Ethics, he violently condemns the 
entire explanation of ethics in terms of natural selection and 
biological utility. He states categorically that "what is 
ethically best involves conduct that is in all respects" (italics 
mine) "opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic 
struggle for existence." He points out that what we call 
immoral sentiments have no less evolved than the moral and 
that there is as much natural sanction for the former as for 
the latter. 

A more moderate position on this question than that of 
Huxley seems the only reasonable one. We can scarcely 
believe that what is ethically best is in all respects opposed 
to the processes of natural selection. Even in the case of 
what we consider the noblest virtues, those that have become 
most denaturalized, selection may be plausibly credited with 
the earlier stages of their development. "It is difficult to 


think that the mother who sacrifices herself for her child, 
the clansman who dies for his chief, are indulging in con- 
duct in all respects opposed to that which leads to success 
in the struggle for existence." But it is clear that in the later 
stages of moral development quite other factors are at work 
besides that of natural selection, forces to which we shall 
give the general term of conscious or rational selection. 

It seems clear then, when all these aspects of the case 
have been considered, that the early hopes of the evolu- 
tionists of explaining morality in terms of the principles of 
organic evolution were both extravagant and ill-conceived. 
In truth, this entire way of thinking was vitiated by a fallacy 
to which the human mind seems particularly liable. James 
Ward has well described this fallacy in his Naturalism and 
Agnosticism, in which he is criticizing this theory as de- 
veloped by Herbert Spencer. "Mr. Spencer," he tells us, "in 
his exposition of the doctrine of evolution is guilty of the 
amazing fallacy of supposing that, because the laws of 
energy (including natural selection) are everywhere present, 
they are everywhere sufficient to explain what we see. Which 
is much the same as assuming that because a painter's 
palette, like his finished canvas, shows us a mixture of colors 
laid on with a brush, therefore what sufficed to produce the 
one would actually suffice to produce the other." 


The position here expounded may be said to be in har- 
mony with prevailing conceptions in present-day social 
science. More and more, it is becoming recognized that in 
what is called social evolution we have to do with something 
quite different from the process of organic evolution and 
that the "factors" in socral evolution are of a different 
nature. In short, over against organic evolution is set social 
or "societal" evolution, and in contrast to natural selection, 
men speak of rational or conscious selection. In general, they 


are inclined to think of the level of sociality as having 
unique characters which distinguish it from the organic 
level. Social phenomena presuppose organic and biological 
phenomena, but they can neither be reduced to them nor 
wholly explained by them. The full meaning of this position 
will appear in the next chapter in connection with the state- 
ment there of Emergent Evolution. 

In the first place, a clear distinction is now everywhere 
made between biological and social heredity. Whatever 
may be said of the latter, it is now generally accepted that 
there is no transmission of moral sentiments or ideas from 
one generation to another by physical heredity. All trans- 
mission of the mores is through tradition. More important 
still is the recognition of the fact that selection, in^the social 
sphere, involves, to some degree at least, consciousness of 
the meaning of the behavior. Modern sociologists do not 
deny that natural selection has had a fundamental role in 
determining the primitive forms of behavior on the lower 
levels of custom. Neither do they deny that natural selec- 
tion, in the narrower biological sense, is wholly inoperative 
in social process now. What they do maintain is that more 
and more conscious or rational selection has supervened 
upon natural selection. 1 


The use of the word "rational" seems to imply that the 
selection we have here in mind is a kind of selection based 
upon knowledge, or science in the narrower sense. Selection 
of this sort does indeed appear on the later levels of social 
development. A good illustration would be modern eugenics, 
in its negative form. Knowledge, through biology, of the con- 
sequences of the mating of people of certain physical or 

1 For a good statement of this position the student may consult Keller, 
Societal Evolution. The author still exaggerates the role of natural selection, 
but he makes the distinction entirely clear. 


mental defects, might lead to various ways of preventing 
such mating. With this grows up a new moral sense, a con- 
sciousness of new rights and duties which ultimately might 
be embodied in law. Such would indeed be a form of rational 
or conscious selection which would go counter to and 
modify the cosmic process as such, but the terms conscious 
and rational have a much broader meaning and include 
processes much more fundamental and elemental. 

Rational selection may be said to take place wherever 
forms of behavior are chosen and retained through the 
understanding, however vague and imperfect, of the meaning 
of the acts. Just as mind or consciousness itself emerges on 
certain levels of development, so consciousness of meaning 
or purposiveness emerges as a quality of enhanced conscious- 
ness. When once higher levels of life emerge, so does the 
knowledge that they are higher levels, and ultimately that 
they are stages of a process that involves the emergence of 
levels that are higher yet. This consciousness of values is 
the characteristic of higher levels of mind and it is the 
emergence of this consciousness which we have in mind when 
we speak of conscious or rational selection as contrasted 
with natural. 

As applied to our problem of the origin and development 
of morals, it seems clear that, even though we may credit 
natural selection with having a good deal to do with the 
origin of the simpler forms of behavior, we must deny to it, 
or to any other similar principle, any capacity to explain the 
development of the higher levels. This general position has 
been well expressed by Balfour in his discussion of this same 
question: "In their primitive forms the products of selec- 
tion, they 77 (the ethical values) "have, by a kind of internal 
momentum, overpassed their primitive purpose. Made by 
nature for a natural object, they have developed along lines 
which are certainly independent of selection, perhaps in 
opposition to it. And though not as remote from their first 


manifestation as is the esthetics of men from the esthetics of 
monkeys, no evolutionary explanation will bridge the in- 
terval. If we treat the Sermon on the Mount as a naturalistic 
product, it is as much an evolutionary accident as Hamlet 
or the Ninth Symphony. 7 ' l 


Whence, then, this conscious or rational selection 
whence this "internal momentum"? What are the implica- 
tions of evolution as thus conceived? This is a problem which 
the metaphysics of ethics can scarcely avoid. Many thought- 
ful men are aware of this problem and have pointed out a 
certain paradox in evolution as it is ordinarily conceived. 

If it is interpreted merely in terms of survival through 
adaptation to environment, we are forced to face certain 
very paradoxical consequences, at least regarding the evolu- 
tion of man. Such adaptation, or at least a greater measure 
of it than exists among men, was achieved long ago among 
beings whom we are accustomed to regard as inferior to 
men. Man, considered from the physical point of view, is 
ridiculously unfitted for his environment, and may even be 
said to be more destructive of himself and of his environ- 
ment than are the lower animals. Why then, if the motive 
force and driving power behind evolution is the need to 
secure adaptation to the environment, did evolution not stop 
at the lower forms so completely adapted? Why did it go on 
at all to produce man? 

This question becomes infinitely more puzzling and im- 
pressive when we take into consideration the intelligence and 
moral side of man. The same nature that made the sense 
organs of living creatures merely selective organs that trans- 
mit only biologically important stimuli and which, like the 
organs of movement, serve necessary life functions, this 

1 Arthur James Balfour, Theism and Humanism, p. 124. 


same nature has made possible the acquiring of knowledge 
in a wholly different sense of the word. The same nature 
which made instincts and mores merely to serve life func- 
tions has again made possible the acquiring of a moral sense, 
often independent of this purpose and often in opposition 
to it. 

We seem to be faced here with a curious dilemma. Either 
this turning of life and nature to ideal ends, at least in man, 
is an accident, a superfluous luxury, or else it contains in 
some way the key to a truer knowledge and understanding 
of the entire evolutionary process. It is impossible to resist 
the conclusion that evolution is the expression of some force 
which is not content with achieving merely survival and 
adaptation for its creatures, but seems rather bent on com- 
plicating itself ever more dangerously in the endeavor to 
evolve higher forms of life which have their own intrinsic 


There are two points, we said, at which Darwinian evolu- 
tionism was expected to revolutionize ethics. Evolution by 
natural selection would be able, it was thought, to explain 
the origin, development and meaning of our moral conduct 
and sentiment. It was also thought that ethics as a theory 
of value could henceforth be put upon a wholly scientific 
and naturalistic basis, that man's place in organic nature 
being determined, it would be possible to formulate the 
nature of human good wholly in terms of organic welfare. 

These two problems are often confused, but it is of the 
utmost importance that they should be kept separate in our 
thought. It might be, for instance, that evolution by natural 
selection would satisfactorily account for the origin and 
development of our moral customs and sentiments; but it 
would not necessarily follow that the causes of these cus- 
toms and sentiments are identical with the reasons for their 


present value. Against the fallacy involved in this confusion 
the student has been repeatedly warned. Can then the rea- 
sons for the good or bad of conduct be stated in biological 
terms? It is when we come to this second question of values 
and standards, that the inadequacy of purely biological and 
naturalistic conceptions first becomes fully evident. 

Survival value or viability is, as we have seen, the explain- 
ing principle of evolutionary ethics. The Darwinian formula, 
"natural selection, through struggle for existence, leading to 
the survival of the fit", is applied directly to the phenomena 
we call moral. That becomes good which leads to survival, 
that bad which militates against it. Fitness in the biological 
sense is the result of this struggle. What more natural than 
that this same fitness should be looked upon as the goal of 
the struggle, and that value should be identified with this 
fitness? This is of course what has been done. Precisely as 
the hedonist identifies value with a pleasurable state of con- 
sciousness, so the ethics of evolution identifies value with 
objective fitness and the survival that results. 

This theory of value has been stated in different ways by 
different writers, but the root idea in every case is this notion 
of fitness and of organic welfare. The notion of fitness is 
first of all defined in terms of adjustment. The ethical end, 
or ultimate value, is then just this complete or perfect ad- 
justment to environment. This is, indeed, Herbert Spencer's 
formulation, whose Data of Ethics may be considered the 
first attempt to place ethical theory on a biological and 
evolutionary basis. Leslie Stephen in his Science of Ethics 
emphasizes the conception of organic welfare somewhat 
more. F"or him the end of moral conduct, and the standard 
in terms of which it is to be judged is, "the health of social 
tissue." The highest good is the maximum of social health 
and efficiency. The best statement of the conception is, how- 
ever, that of S. Alexander in The Idea of Value: Moral 
Order and Progress. The standard of value is, in his view, 


the "social equilibrium". He writes "value is nothing but the 
efficiency of a conscious agent to promote the efficiency of 
society, to maintain the equilibrium of forces which that 
society represents." 

It is clear that the same general idea underlies all these 
forms.of expression. Value is, in the last analysis, identified 
with organic welfare or viability. It is clear also that we have 
here to do with a form of perfectionism in ethics, in that it is 
the perfection of function (whether perfection of adjust- 
ment, of social health or efficiency), rather than a pleasur- 
able state of consciousness, that constitutes the standard of 
value. In other words, value is essentially a biological 
phenomenon although it appears in psychological form. 
Being a biological phenomenon and that is the essential 
point our conception of good or value, even in ethics, must 
be defined and formulated in biological terms. 


There seems to be scarcely any question that in the theory 
of value thus outlined we have a basis for ethics more ade- 
quate than that proposed by hedonism. The ethics of evolu- 
tion sees perfectly clearly that we do not understand the real 
locus of value until we see that the satisfaction of wants has 
significance only with reference to the conservation or fur- 
therance of that life which, by satisfaction or dissatisfac- 
tion, is enhanced or thwarted. Those who claim that this 
biological theory of value gives a much more objective and 
"scientific" basis for morals than does hedonism, are in so 
far right in that they seek to base their theory upon a con- 
ception of the nature of man and of his place in nature. 
Thus far the theory goes in the right direction. The question 
at issue is merely whether its notions of "life," of the nature 
of man, and of his place in the cosmos, are adequate. The 
inadequacy of this biological ethics has become increasingly 


clear and has often been stated in terms of what are called 
the fallacies of the ethics of evolution. They were first stated 
by T. H. Huxley in the lecture referred to, but have been 
restated, time and again, by others in varying forms. 

It is, first of all, quite generally recognized that the entire 
structure of this ethics is built upon a serious confusion of 
thought on a fallacy of ambiguity. The notion of the "fit" 
or fittest is central in Darwinism. Fittest has, however, a 
connotation of best and "about best there hangs a moral 
flavor." In cosmic nature, however, what is fittest depends 
upon the conditions, and is wholly relative to them. If our 
hemisphere were to cool again, the survival of the fittest 
might bring about, in the vegetable kingdom, a population 
of more and more stunted and humbler organisms, until the 
fittest that survived might be nothing but lichens, etc. There 
is clearly no valid connection between fittest in the biologi- 
cal sense and best in the moral sense. Lowlier forms of life 
are often, as we have seen in a preceding paragraph, better 
fitted in the biological sense than is man (the parasite that 
preys on man is better fitted in this sense than man). Now 
it is possible to maintain that the moral distinctions that 
have grown up later are, in fact, an accident, a superfluous 
luxury, or even something "contrary to nature." But it is 
sufficiently clear that they can not be identified with biologi- 
cal notions without the most serious confusion of thought. 

A recognition of this fallacy of ambiguity leads us to see 
another fallacy involved in all attempts to define moral value 
in terms of adaptation to environment. We may call it the 
fallacy of static environment. In all such reasoning it is 
falsely assumed that environment for man and for the lower 
forms of life is essentially the same thing. The environment 
for an alpine plant, or a deep sea form of life, is essentially 
unchangeable. Because in a purely physical sense environ- 
ment for man remains thus static, it is easy to assume that 
environment in the human, social sense remains so also. In 


reality the situation is exactly the reverse. The Atlantic 
ocean has, as we say, become a mill pond. A much truer 
description would be to say that man by rational selection, 
adapts his environment to himself to his own ends and 

But these two fallacies are in reality but minor phases of 
a still more fundamental fallacy which, as Huxley says, 
appears to pervade the so-called "ethics of evolution." It is 
as he continues, "the notion that, because, on the whole, 
animals and plants advanced in perfection of organization 
by means of the struggle for existence, and the consequent 
survival of the fittest, therefore men in society, men as 
ethical beings, must look to the same processes to help them 
to perfection." In other words, by a false, analogy, we argue 
from plants and animals to men, when differences so pro- 
found between the lower and the higher levels of life, make 
such argument illusory. We assume not only that perfection 
is the same thing for animals and men, but that the factors 
leading to that perfection are the same. Both assumptions 
are false. 

This is undoubtedly the most vicious fallacy of all, from 
the point of view of both theory and practice. We shall have 
something to say of Darwinism in practice; here we are 
concerned wholly with the theoretical side of the subject. 
The fallacy is present even in the attempt to explain the 
development of morals. It assumes, falsely, that the factors 
sufficient to explain the lower levels of animal life can be 
carried up to higher levels where entirely new factors have 
emerged in this case the factors which we have described 
as rational selection. But the fallacy is even more serious 
when the assumption is made that good and perfection for 
man are the same as for animals and that, therefore, the 
processes that lead to perfection and the criterion of perfec- 
tion are in principle the same in both. That which distin- 
guishes the human and social level, as we shall develop more 


fully in the next chapter, is the emergence of selves. Self- 
hood is a new character or quality that cannot be reduced 
to terms of lower levels. This new factor invalidates any 
argument in morals which proceeds from the animal or 
biological level to the human and social. 

On this whole question of the application of biological 
conceptions to ethics, Professor E. G. Conklin, the noted 
biologist, has written very wisely as follows: "these great 
problems of the hour (ethical and social) should be viewed 
not only in the light of human history but also in the long 
perspective of the history of human beings on the earth. 
Undoubtedly the fundamental concepts of biology apply to 
man no less than to the other organisms, but it must be 
admitted that the application of biological principles to 
specific problems of social organization is often of doubtful 
value. Thus we find that biological sanction is claimed for 
wholly antagonistic opinions, as for example, for and against 
war, woman's suffrage, polygamy, etc. Those who are 
searching for biological analogies to support almost any pre- 
conceived theory in philosophy, are likely to find them." In 
other words, for the basis of our moral values and norms we 
must look to a quite different realm of ideas. 

Any attempt to base our criteria of moral value on biologi- 
cal conceptions is thus essentially fallacious. Cosmic evolu- 
tion may indeed teach us how the good and evil tendencies 
of man have come about although even here its explana- 
tions are insufficient "but in itself it is incompetent to 
furnish any better reason why what we call the good is 
preferable to what we call evil than we had before." For an 
understanding of our distinctions between good and bad, 
when applied to human behavior, we must pass from the 
purely organic to the hyper-organic level of thought, from 
mere organisms to selves, and their relations to each other in 
society. This truth our more critical modern thought has 
fully learned. 



Theory and practice are very closely related. If an idea 
is true in theory it is very likely to work in practice, and if 
it works practically there must be some element of truth 
in it as theory. Fallacies of thought, such as we have dis- 
covered, both in the explanation of our moral ideas and 
sentiments in terms of natural selection, and in the formula- 
tion of the moral ideal and standard in terms of adaptation 
and survival, are likely to affect our practical moral judg- 
ments. Mr. Bernard Shaw, in his preface to Back to Methu- 
selah, has painted a dark picture of what he considers to be 
the vicious effect of Darwinism on moral practice and theory. 
Though doubtless exaggerated, his attack nevertheless con- 
tains an element of truth that can not be denied. He believes 
that this jungle philosophy, joined to our already existing 
economic individualism and political nationalism, brought 
us to a moral abyss of which the World War was a symbol. 

We need not go to the full length of this attack on Dar- 
winism in morals, to realize how disastrously ideas taken 
from the biological realm such as "struggle for existence" 
and "survival of the fittest/' have colored our practical 
thought and action. In later chapters we shall note specific 
points at which these ideas have denatured our moral no- 
tions. Here it is necessary merely to indicate the general 
nature of this influence. 

"Naturalism" in morals consists essentially of thinking of 
ourselves as animals as "high-grade simians/' as it were. If, 
however, we think of ourselves as simians whether of high 
or low grade we shall tend to evaluate our conduct from 
that point of view. The "unnatural" character of developed 
morals, as it appears in theory, translates itself into the prac- 
tical belief that the "conventions" of society are non-natural, 
and the old cry, "back to nature," is in full swing again. This 
ethics of the jungle, as it has been called, is perhaps not 


often preached in its most literal form, but the same general 
ideas are everywhere present in popular morals of the more 
radical type. Behaviorism, as a philosophy of life, is a theory 
of this kind. Based as it is, on a psychology which reduces 
the mental to the biological, whenever it introduces ethical 
concepts it inevitably translates them into biological terms. 
A large part of the "novelties" in sex ethics recently pro- 
posed are based on these premises, and it is not surprising 
that, when more closely examined, they turn out to be a 
reversion to lower forms of life which we had fondly sup- 
posed civilization had gone beyond. 



* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chaps. II-V. 

* W. K. Wright, Ethics, Chaps. II and III. 

* L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, Chaps. I, II. 
R. H. Lowie, Primitive Society, 

Edward Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral 

Ideas, Vol. II, Chap. XXXIV. 
H. W. Dresser, Ethics, Chap. I. 

W. Wundt, Principles of Morality, (Vol. I, Facts of the Moral 

* F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chap. XI (The Moral Ideas of Primitivt* 

People ) . 


Herbert Spencer, Data of Ethics. 

Leslie Stephen, The Science of Ethics. 

S. Alexander, Moral Order and Progress. 

Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, Chap. XXVII. 

Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals. 


* J. H. Huxley, Evolution and Ethics, (Romanes Lecture). 

* A. J. Balfour, Theism and Humanism, Lecture IV. 

* T. De Laguna, Introduction to The Science of Ethics, Chap. 


* J. A. Leighton, The Individual and The Social Order, Chap. 

XVII (Biological Ethics). 


J. G. Schurman, The Ethical Import of Darwinism. 

H. Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil, Vol. II, Bk. Ill, 

Chap. IV. 

W. R. Sorley, The Ethics oj Naturalism. 
P. E. More, The Drift oj Romanticism, "Huxley" and 

J. N. Figgis, The Will To Power, The Gospel of Nietzsche and 

The Gospel of Christ. 

* J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. VII. 

* G. B. Shaw, Back To Methuselah, Preface. 



The limitations of a merely biological philosophy of ethics 
are now clearly evident. No adequate concept or criterion 
of human value can be based on organic categories alone. 
To recognize these limitations does not, however, mean to 
deny its significance and importance so far as it goes. It 
has, for instance, been made the basis of searching criti- 
cisms of erroneous conceptions of the economic life of man. 
As over against the ideal that the goal of the economic 
life is unlimited production of wealth, one may well set 
the ideal of organic welfare of welfare even in this limited 
sense. One may say, in terms of a philosophy enunciated 
centuries ago, that "the life is more than meat and the body 
than raiment." One may, from this point of view, deny the 
value of any civilization in which "wealth accumulates and 
men decay." Such a criticism, as for instance that of J. A. 
Hobson/ proceeds upon the conception that a "human 
standard" of economic value is "to value every act of pro- 
duction and consumption with regard to the aggregate effect 
on life." 

As over against the utilitarianism of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, biological conceptions of value were in this respect a 
distinct advance. But our thinking can not stop here. Even 
in Hobson's thought the criterion of value is found, not 
merely in the aggregate effect on life, but also on the "char- 
acter of agents." With the addition of this phrase, we have 

X J. A. Hobson, Work and Wealth A Human Valuation. 



passed from the merely organic to the hyper-organic level, 
from the naturalistic perfectionism which we have been ex- 
amining to the idealistic perfectionism with which it must be 


The simplest statement of idealistic perfectionism is per- 
haps the following. Good or value for man lies in the perfec- 
tion of his functions, but these functions are more than 
organic. They are rational, spiritual, ideal. In the words of 
Aristotle, one of the oldest representatives of this view, man 
is an animal, but he is a rational animal, and his good lies in 
the perfection of his rational or ideal nature. 

The first and most important aspect of this form of per- 
fectionism is the insistence that man is more than organic, 
and that the life he lives has a meaning and value that can 
not be described in organic terms. In other words idealistic 
perfectionism recognizes hyper-organic values. 

The term hyper-organic, or super-organic, is one that has 
attained a wide vogue in present-day sociological and ethical 
studies. Students of social phenomena, for instance, speak 
of these phenomena as constituting a level of fact which, 
while depending upon organic conditions, is still other than 
organic, having new qualities and new laws. The recognition 
of this fact has come about partly through an increasing 
realization that the societal evolution, of which we have 
spoken, is in many respects radically different from organic 
evolution and governed by significantly different laws. It is 
also partly the result of new conceptions of evolution itself, 
of evolution as emergent, by which is meant that in the 
process of evolution new levels emerge which are not re- 
ducible to the lower levels, social and ethical phenomena 
constituting a level which, while presupposing the organic, 
cannot be reduced to it. 

The second aspect of this form of perfectionism is its 


emphasis on personality. The outstanding character of the 
hyper-organic level is the emergence of selves or personal- 
ities. It is the development or realization of selves that con- 
stitutes the "good" of this level, and for this reason the 
theory of ethics which makes this the locus of value is called 
the ethics of self-realization. By this is meant that the locus 
of the good or value is not found in pleasure, nor in organic 
survival or welfare, but in the complete energizing of our 
capacities as selves or persons, it being assumed that self- 
hood or personality constitutes a distinct kind of reality and 
has values not definable in terms of anything else. Even 
Kant, the formalist, recognized the truth in this idea when 
he laid down as a fundamental maxim of morals, that we 
should never treat a human being as a means to an end but 
always as an end in himself. Hegel, perhaps the chief modern 
representative of idealistic perfectionism, summed up all 
morality, in the phrase, "Be a person and respect others as 
persons. 77 

The third aspect of this theory is that it is idealistic 
rather than naturalistic. The terms idealism and idealistic 
have made a great deal of trouble in philosophy, but they 
need cause no difficulty here. The terms, as applied in this 
case, mean that the self which I ought to realize, and in the 
realization of which my good consists, is not the self in a 
merely bodily or organic sense, not a mere bundle of 
instincts or impulses, but that integrated self which we call 
character. As the self is more than organic, so it is more 
than natural in the ordinary sense of the word. The natural 
self, of impulse and instinct, constitutes the raw material of 
the ethical life, out of which the ideal self is made. 


Perfectionism in some form is the natural ethical philos* 


ophy of the great moral teachers and prophets, and its 
idealistic form the natural expression of more elevated con- 
ceptions of life. But it is by no means confined to the 
teachers and prophets. It constitutes a well-defined moral 
theory which seems to many, when properly interpreted, to 
be the only workable moral philosophy. 

This ethical theory found its first expression in the works 
of the great Greek idealists, Plato and Aristotle, and re- 
sulted, in the first instance, from a criticism and clarification 
of hedonism. When ethical reflection first arose among the 
Greeks, it found expression in the natural or common sense 
notion that happiness constitutes the good of man. In meet- 
ing the ethical scepticism of the Sophists, Socrates main- 
tained that knowledge of the good is possible, that such 
moral insight is the most excellent thing in the world, and 
that this insight is inevitably followed by happiness. 

Socrates did not find it necessary to make any clear dis- 
tinction between excellence and happiness, but Plato and 
Aristotle did. Their way of thinking is described as Eud<z- 
monism, to distinguish it from hedonism. Eudremonism is 
the theory that active well-being is the highest good of life 
and that that good is always accompanied by pleasure. In 
a number of his dialogues especially the Phcedo, Plato 
makes the distinction clear, and later Aristotle, in the Nico- 
machcean Ethics, formulated it clearly. In a famous passage 
of that work he starts out with the statement that "to say 
that happiness is the chief good seems a platitude, but the 
statement means little until we determine wherein that 
happiness consists. " He finds it to consist in perfection of 

This Greek notion was taken over into Christian ethics, 
Christian thought in general being greatly influenced by 
Greek philosophy. But something else entered into the Chris- 
tian formulation, namely an emphasis on the self or person. 


The unique value of every human soul, as a son of God, the 
injunction "be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is 
perfect/' enunciated by the founder of Christianity and 
elaborated by St. Paul, finally entered into the very warp and 
woof of Christian thought. St. Augustine and St. Anselm, 
both Platonists, carried on the Greek tradition, but the com- 
plete formulation of Christian moral philosophy must be 
ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas. For him, as for Aristotle, 
everything in nature, every created thing, has its own good 
and its own perfection and strives towards that perfection. 
The good of man consists in the perfection of his rational 
or spiritual nature, and ultimately in the beatific vision of 
God from whom his being and reason are derived. 

In modern times this ideal of the ethical end has con- 
tinued with unabated influence. In the main it has been 
associated with the Rationalism of the continental philos- 
ophy, but seems to be independent of any specific meta- 
physics. Thinkers as widely different as Leibnitz and Spinoza 
have held this view of the moral life in principle. Despite 
his formalism, Kant's moral philosophy, taken as a whole, 
contains an element of perfectionism, and Hegel has ex- 
pressed it most completely for modern times. 

In recent English and American thought it received its 
first formulation by the Neo-Hegelians, idealistic philos- 
ophers such as T. H. Green, F. H. Bradley, Bernard Bosan- 
quet and others. These men, steeped in classic Greek thought 
and Christian philosophy, never felt at home in the hedon- 
ism and utilitarianism of the English empirical school. It 
would be a mistake, however, to identify the ethical philos- 
ophy here described with metaphysical idealism. Ethical 
idealism of this sort is found associated with both realism 
and pragmatism; John Dewey, the distinguished pragmatist 
being, for instance, a representative of this school of ethical 



This brief historical sketch suffices to show both the con- 
tinuity of this way of thinking, and also to make still more 
clear the point at which it differs from the naturalistic form 
of perfectionism, associated with Darwinian evolution. That 
which is common to them all, from Plato and Aristotle to 
Hegel, is first, that the good lies in development or realiza- 
tion, and ultimately in perfection; and secondly that the 
good life for man, to be thus realized, includes the perfection 
of other functions than those of the merely biological life. 

The essentials of this theory were presented by Aristotle 
in an argument as clear and as valid as in any of the later 
forms. It is desirable that this argument should be known 
and appreciated by every student of ethics. But it is also 
desirable that it should be formulated in a more modern 
way, in a way namely that will make it fit more naturally 
into the context of present-day evolutionary thought. We 
shall accordingly state the Aristotelean argument briefly and 
then restate it in a more modern form. 

Aristotle starts out with the assumption that to say that 
happiness is the chief good is a platitude, but holds that a 
clearer account is desirable. This is possible only if we can 
first ascertain the function of man. He points out that in all 
things that have a function, or activity, the good or the 
"well" is thought to reside in that function. A flute player, 
a sculptor or any artist, has a function and a good 
artist is he who performs his function well. He then asks: 
Have these, or the carpenter and the tanner, certain func- 
tions or activities, and has man, as man, none? He thinks not 
and then seeks to find what this function may be. 

He starts out with man as a mere living organism with 
the "notion of Life." Life, however, seems to be common to 
plants as well, but we are seeking what is peculiar to man. 


Let us exclude, therefore, the life of nutrition and growth. 
Next there would be life of perception, but this also seems 
to be common even to the horse, the ox, and every other 
animal. There remains then, an active life of the element 
that has a rational principle. It is in this rational principle 
that we find the unique function of man. Now the function 
of a lyre-player is to play the lyre and the function of a good 
lyre-player is to do so well. If this is the case, human good 
turns out to be the highest activity of the rational principle, 
"to be the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, and 
if there are more than one virtue, in accordance with the 
most complete." The complete energizing of our rational 
or spiritual functions constitutes the good of man, and the 
excellence thus achieved is virtue. 

This line of thought is so simple and so inevitable that it 
appears wherever and whenever men think about the good at 
all. It is, nevertheless, also so fundamental that it is still the 
form in which men reason whenever they try to think out 
what is implied in the notion of the good or value. Let us now 
try to restate it in terms of present-day thought. 

The good or value of anything is to be found, in the first 
instance, in its use or function. A good knife is one that cuts 
well, a good machine of any kind is one that performs its 
function efficiently. A good race horse or a good dray horse 
are horses whose structure is determined by their purpose or 
function. So also with a good carpenter or good physician. 
In each case the answer lies in the degree of the efficiency 
as an instrument or means to some end. 

But we may also ask what is the good of some organ of 
the body, such as the liver or spleen. What is the good of 
certain instinctive capacities in animals, etc.? The answer is 
value-for-life, their function in the conserving or furthering 
of the life processes. But finally, we may also ask what is 
the good of life? We can answer this question only by 


implying something else for which life is there. It is true 
we may answer that this is a meaningless question. That 
life is a good in itself, and that when we reach the notion 
of life in our thinking, we have, so to speak, reached the 
terminal point. There are those, indeed, who hold this posi- 
tion, but to most men it has seemed clear that life is not an 
end in itself, but is the condition of other goods to be 
realized either happiness or perfection of selves. 

If then we examine these illustrations we find that we get 
three relatively different conceptions of the "good," and that 
back of those conceptions lie the three fundamental con- 
ceptions of mechanism, organism and humanism, or per- 

The good of a mechanism is its efficiency, and the notion 
of good as efficiency applies only to mechanisms. Thus even 
when we find the notion applied to human beings, or to 
human activities of any kind, we always think of the indi- 
vidual or society in a mechanical way. The good of an 
organism is its capacity for life, as the biologists say, its 
viability. Corresponding to this we have the notions of sur- 
vival, organic welfare, fullness of life, etc. These notions, 
strictly speaking, apply only to organisms and organic life. 
When we find them applied in the human or social context, 
it always means that the individual or society is en- 
visaged in a merely organic way. Finally, there is the con- 
ception of human good as something more than organic 
welfare. Man is an animal, but he is a "rational" and a social 
animal. Man is an organism, but he is also a personality, 
something hyper-organic which, for lack of a better term, 
we may for the moment call spirit. Man has therefore values 
which, in contrast to the merely organic, we may call 

All this may be presented in a graphic way by the follow- 
ing scheme: 



Levels Distinguishing characters Corresponding 

Value concepts 

. C Personality and ^ 
Hyper-organic < . ,. > belf -Realization 

Organic Organism Viability 

Inorganic Mechanism Efficiency 

In this scheme the organic is higher than the inorganic 
and the hyper-organic higher than the organic. If we look 
at it from the evolutionary point of view each higher level 
develops or "emerges" from the lower. Each level has its 
own concept, or category, of value, and as each higher level 
presupposes the preceding levels, but can not be reduced to 
them, so also each concept of value includes or presupposes 
the lower, but its meaning can not be expressed in terms of 
the lower. 

These fundamental distinctions and categories are firmly 
fixed in popular thought and evaluation. There seems to be 
embedded in common sense an immitigable scale of values, 
according to which the living is in some way higher than the 
non-living, and mind or spirit higher than the merely bodily 
life. When these distinctions are blurred and confused, we 
have what is called "naturalism" in art and literature, and 
naturalism or materialism in philosophy. Thus, in a certain 
trial in London when libel charges brought by Oscar Wilde 
were being tried, Lord Alfred Douglas was one of the wit- 
nesses. In his testimony, he said of Oscar Wilde that he 
"perverted values," that for him "the physical was the 
spiritual and the spiritual was the physical, the higher the 
lower and the lower the higher." Such perversions of values 
are everywhere recognized, not only by the common sense of 
men but also by economic and political philosophers. It is 
constantly charged against our present economic order that 


it exalts the means of life above the ends, that it puts wealth 
and property above personality. 


It follows from the foregoing that idealistic perfectionism 
naturally takes as its conception of the ethical end or good, 
that of self-realization. Recognizing, as it does, that the 
notions of self or personality stand for unique and super- 
organic forms of life that can not be reduced to organic 
terms, it necessarily finds the good or value for man in the 
development of that personality, in the complete energizing 
or realizing of all man's capacities as a person. 

This does not mean, of course, that self-realization is 
possible in abstracto that is without including the satis- 
faction, fulfillment, realization of the organic tendencies, of 
the natural instincts of man. Self-realization involves the 
realization of these also. Nor does it mean that such self- 
realization is possible without satisfaction or realization of 
the social tendencies or instincts of man. The self is, as we 
shall see, essentially a social self. Self-realization involves 
the satisfaction of all these and more. For this reason the 
ethical good of man is said to consist in total self-realization. 

To understand what is meant by self-realization in this 
theory it is necessary to begin first with the more simple 
idea of realization. Realization is a general term for 
achievement, through human powers, along various lines of 
effort and attainment. It includes the idea of an object or 
an end and the bringing of the same to actuality or reality 
through accomplishment. 

In the ordinary life of economic and social accomplish- 
ment it is usually called success. And success in this nar- 
rower sense is normally a condition, in some part and to some 
degree, of self-realization. But there are forms of realization 
for which success seems scarcely the appropriate term. There 
is, for instance, the realization of love between two human 


beings. Here realization lies first in bringing our love or 
devotion for another to full consciousness or actuality. This 
may take place without return and is still a form of self- 
realization. But if the love is returned, there is added the 
realization of another's love for us, and with it a new sense 
of attainment and possession. Here we should be likely to 
use the term fulfillment rather than success, for that which 
is brought to realization here is something which seems to 
lie deeper and to be a more integral part of the Self than 
the more external objects and projects to which we devote 
our effort. 

These then are forms of functioning or realization. But 
deeper than these deeper even, perhaps, than the realiza- 
tion of love or friendship between persons is the realization 
of ends which transcend persons. There are the individual 
goods described above, but there is also over-individual good 
the realization of those values which we subsume under 
the general terms of the true, the beautiful, and the good. 
These words are, to be sure, abstractions, but the things for 
which they stand are not abstractions, as all who pursue 
these ends know. Pursuit of these ends may, as Ibsen in his 
later plays showed, involve an abstraction from life which 
is ethically vicious, but these values correspond to functions 
basal in the "rational" life of man and their achievement 
represents, the highest functioning of his nature. 


In all these cases realization is in a sense interchangeable 
with function or functioning of which it is the complete or 
satisfying form. In such realizations or functionings are 
found the veritable goods or values of human life for and 
this is the important point they are part of the man him- 
self, they constitute in themselves the development, the 
realization or the perfection of the self. 

This element of ^//-realization has degrees and is present, 


in greater or less completeness, in the varying types of func- 
tioning. Already we may see from the foregoing simple illus- 
trations, that the self is, so to speak, more completely 
involved in some types of functioning than in others, and 
that the degree of value associated with such functionings is 
higher. We shall later attempt to construct a scale or system 
of human values from this point of view. Here we shall 
simply emphasize the point that all realization involves self- 
realization in different degrees, and that it is only in terms 
of this self-realization that ethical values can be defined and 

As a result of this analysis, we may now understand 
clearly our criticisms of hedonism. It is natural to call the 
realization and self-realization here described as human 
"happiness", and rightly understood they are. There is no 
reason why in popular speech the terms should not be used 
interchangeably. But there is every reason why they should 
not be confused in exact thought. Theoretical distinctions 
have important consequences, a fact well understood in other 
spheres of knowledge. It makes little difference perhaps, in 
ordinary discourse, whether \ve use the terms force or 
energy. Something moves the table and we refer to the 
same thing whether we speak of force or energy. But it was 
precisely the refinement of these terms, and the establish- 
ment of clear distinctions between them, that have led to 
important advances in physics. 


It is the view of the present writer that the theory of value 
here presented is the only one that is tenable in theory and 
capable of satisfactory application to the practical problems 
of morals. This is, of course, a position that can be justified 
only by the results of Book II, in which the theory will be 
used as a guide through the special fields of morals. We may 
recall, however, that we have reached this theory only by a 


careful and fundamental criticism of all other possible 
theories. It is only fair to say, however, that there are certain 
criticisms of the self-realization theory that can not be 
ignored. These are in a way met in later parts of the book, 
but they are so constantly made that we can scarcely pass 
them by wholly at the present time. 

It is often charged that, as a practical way of life, self- 
realization contains the same type of difficulty as that de- 
scribed as the hedonistic paradox. Of Theodore Roosevelt 
it was said, by one of his admirers, that he escaped alike the 
fallacies of pleasure-seeking and self-realization. In this 
statement it was assumed that both are alike egoistic and 
that egoism is self-defeating. Self-realization does, indeed, 
appear at first sight to be but a more refined name for 
selfishness and, because the self is made the center or locus 
of value, necessarily egoistic. But all depends, of course, upon 
our idea of the nature of the self. If, as we shall contend in 
the next chapter, the very relations of a man to others are 
part of his intrinsic self-hood, it is only in the realizing or 
functioning of these relations that realization of the self is 
achieved. Nevertheless, there is undoubtedly an element of 
truth in this objection. Spiritual perfection is no exception 
to the rule that individual good, sought for its own sake, is 
self-defeating. In a sense self-realization must also be a 
by-product, as our analysis of realization has shown. But 
there is an important difference that should not be over- 
looked. It is well expressed in the epigram: "We must forget 
the self, but never lose it." 

Much more fundamental is the second criticism constantly 
brought against the self-realization theory. It is that it is 
theoretically vague and practically useless. It is even charged 
against it that it involves an argument in a circle, that is 
when we define good or value in terms of perfection we are 
really defining the good in terms of itself. Let us consider 
this latter objection first, for in meeting it we shall also be 


able to meet the objections that the theory is theoretically 
vague and practically useless. 

This latter criticism was made by Kant in his Meta- 
physics of Morals and was well stated later by Herbert Spen- 
cer in his Data of Ethics: "Perfection is synonymous with 
goodness (value) in the highest degree. Hence to define value 
or good in terms of perfection is indirectly to define value or 
good in terms of itself. Naturally, therefore, it happens that 
the notion of perfection, like the notion of goodness, can be 
defined only in relation to ends." This is undoubtedly true. 
The notion of perfection is vague and meaningless until we 
know what it is that is to be perfected. The notion of self- 
realization is a mere word until we know what are the con- 
crete ends, the realization of which includes or involves self- 
realization. We may admit then, without any hesitation, that 
the theory is both theoretically vague and practically useless 
until it is made more concrete. This task we shall attempt 
in the chapter on the System of Values. 

Even now, however, we have reached two important con- 
clusions that can not be gainsaid. We have shown negatively 
that the notion of happiness is meaningless without the con- 
sideration of the functionings of the self, the realization of 
which means happiness. We have also shown that these func- 
tionings can not be adequately described in purely organic 
or biological terms : we are compelled to proceed to a hyper- 
organic level of thought. In the second place we have already 
suggested positively, by our analysis of realization, some at 
least of the various functionings that are involved in self- 


The discussions of this chapter have led us at certain 
points into the field of general philosophy. This is in the 
very nature of the case inevitable. Perfection, perfectionism, 


have no meaning, as we have seen, until we ask the question 
what it is that is to be perfected. To answer this question 
we must ask the further question, what is the nature of 
man? It is inevitable that our entire conception of what is 
good or bad, right or wrong, in human behavior and in human 
life, depends upon our conception of what man is. As J. A. 
Thomson, the biologist, has said: "what is decent in a chim- 
panzee is unspeakably abominable in man." The key ques- 
tion of ethics then is, What is man? 

Ethical thinking was, we have seen, inevitably affected by 
the development of Darwinian evolution. The first effect of 
the application of Darwinian ideas was inevitably to think of 
man in terms of non-human forms of life. Man might be a 
high-grade simian, but he was still a simian. It seemed diffi- 
cult to make any fundamental distinction between the be- 
havior of a simian and that of man between the habits of 
the former and the morals of the latter. In the technical 
terms of the present, naturalistic evolution was reductive, 
that is the tendency was always to reduce the "higher" to 
the "lower", to try to understand the later forms of life 
wholly in terms of the earlier. With the notions of evolution 
then in vogue it was almost inevitable that the ethics of 
evolution should tend in this direction. 


In the meantime, our entire thought about evolution has 
undergone a rather complete change, and as a result our 
present notions of man and of his place in the evolutionary 
scheme have also changed in important ways. These new 
ideas of evolution have different names, such as "creative 
evolution", associated primarily with- the philosophy of 
Bergson, and "emergent evolution", associated with the 
names of the biologist C. Lloyd Morgan and the philosopher 
S. Alexander. These new conceptions of evolution differ 


among themselves in details, but all agree in being anti- 
materialistic. That is, all believe that the "higher levels" 
of life and mind can not be explained by reducing them to 
forms of matter and motion. In the technical terms of the 
present, they are anti-reductionist. These higher levels are 
entirely new qualities that have emerged in the evolutionary 
process and have their own character and own laws. 

Emergent evolution, in the narrower sense, follows this 
general line of thought. First of all, there is space-time, in 
the sense of modern physics. From these have evolved the 
simplest forms of matter and energy. The latter, widely dis- 
tributed in time and place, become organized into stars and 
planets. Here, on this earth at least, and perhaps elsewhere, 
matter becomes organized with a certain complexity and life 
emerges. An organism, viewed in one way, is simply an 
aggregate of atoms and molecules, but in the case of what 
we call organism new properties and modes of behavior are 
added which are not found in mere aggregates. From lower 
forms of life emerge other forms in which what we call 
mind appears, which again has new characteristics and modes 
of behavior. Matter, life, and mind constitute then distinct 
levels; but there are also intermediate levels within the 
larger divisions. 

This doctrine of distinct and unique levels is the dis- 
tinguishing character of emergent evolution. It differs from 
earlier forms in that it holds that no higher level is reducible 
to lower ones. Each level has novel characteristics. No one 
who merely had full knowledge of a lower level could predict 
the emergence of a higher one with its unique qualities. The 
practical result of this is that biologists are more and more 
saying that in order to understand living things we must 
keep the category of the living intact; we must not try to 
reduce it to terms of the non-living. Psychologists and 
sociologists are more and more saying that to understand 


mind and society we must keep the categories of the mental 
and the social intact. The mental and the social are biologi- 
cally conditioned, to be sure, but mental and societal evolu- 
tion involve new factors that can not be reduced to biological 

The entire drift of emergent evolution is in the direction 
of establishing the uniqueness of the category of personality 
and of those relations between persons which have the 
unique quality of the moral. For the emergent evolutionist, 
what we call mind, in the broad sense, has emerged out of 
the living non-mental and is associated, in various forms and 
in differing degrees, with all those animal forms of life where 
the necessary neurological conditions are present. But a still 
higher level emerges in which mind has not only conscious- 
ness, but consciousness of values. The quality of purposive- 
ness emerges as a particular quality of enhanced conscious- 
ness. But just as higher levels of life emerge, so does the 
knowledge that they are higher and that they are but stages 
in a process which involves the emergence of levels that are 
higher yet. This consciousness of values is the characteristic 
of the highest level of mind. 

Emergent evolutionists differ with regard to the ultimate 
significance of this higher level of mind. Some look upon 
values (including moral values) as qualities that did not 
exist in any sense until they made their appearance in time. 
Those who hold this will then think of morality as purely 
human, emerging with the human and disappearing if the 
human passes away. On the other hand, many believe that 
these values have a more than human significance. That 
throughout the entire course of evolution there has been an 
upward nisus or tendency, not only towards organization, but 
towards the creation and development of values. To believe 
this last is, of course, to regard the world order as in some 
sense purposive or teleological. But it is also to hold that the 
values are in some sense implicit in the entire process. This 


nisus, or tendency, to organization, and to the creation of 
value, may be conceived as an Intelligent Mind, in other 
words as God. In this case we have what is called Theistic 

Those who hold the theistic view of evolution maintain 
naturally that the very presence of moral values and of a 
moral order, presupposes the reality of the being that 
religions call God. This is a problem of the type called 
philosophical and will be considered when we come to the 
philosophical aspects of ethics. One thing has, however, 
appeared clearly from the foregoing. The entire drift of 
modern evolutional theory is in favor of our conception of 
hyper-organic levels. It is not necessary to say that an 
emergent evolutionist is necessarily a self-realizationist in 
ethics. It is, however, perfectly true to say that emergent 
evolution has provided a philosophical background for the 
main principles of that theory. 



W. H. S. Jones, Greek Morality. 

* R. A. P. Rogers, A Short History of Ethics. 

* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Book I. 
Gomperz, Greek Thinkers. 

Walter Pater, Plato and Platonism. 

H. A. Reyburn, The Ethical Theory of Hegel. 

J. M. Sterrett, The Ethics of Hegel. 


Plato, Philcbus Gorgias, Protagoras, Republic. 

* Aristotle, Nicomachcean Ethics, Bk. I. Also Modern Student's 

Library (Selections jrom Aristotle) especially pp. 234 ff. 

* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. IT, Chaps. I, II, V, VII. 
J. Dewey and j. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. VIII. 

J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Bk. IV, Chap. III. 
Warner Fite, Introductory Study of Ethics, Chap. XL 
H. W. Wright, Self-Realization, Part II, Chaps. V-VI, Part III. 



* E. F. Carritt, The Theory of Morals, Chap. V. 

F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chap. XX, pp. 443 ff. 

G. E. Moore, P rind pi a Ethic a. 


* T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics. 

* J. A. Leighton, The Individual and The Social Order. 

* J. A. Leighton, Man and The Cosmos. 

B. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value. 



Thus far we have investigated the problem of human 
values without taking into serious account at all a certain 
contrast of good and bad which is fundamental in ethical 
practice and theory the contrast namely between selfish- 
ness and unselfishness, or Egoism and Altruism. The contrast 
is fundamental for the reason that in much of ethical think- 
ing selfishness and bad conduct tend to become identical and 
unselfishness or altruism are made coextensive with good- 
ness. These distinctions accordingly play a paramount role 
in all ethical discussion. Egoism and altruism, selfishness and 
unselfishness, are fundamental forms in terms of which we 
are accustomed to classify conduct, and this contrast in the 
practical life corresponds to equally thorough-going con- 
trasts in theory. There have been absolute egoists, such as 
Stirner and Nietzsche, and absolute altruists such as Tolstoy. 


It is necessary first of all to indicate the various forms 
which this contrast or opposition takes before we can even 
hope to understand it, to say nothing of attempting to solve 
it. This opposition of ideals and principles takes three main 
forms. In the first place, there is the ordinary conflict be- 
tween self-interest and benevolence in the everyday life of 
the individual man, or the conflict of egoism and altruism 
in its first meaning. There is, secondly, the conflict between 
individualism and collectivism in economic activity and in 
social theory, between the principles of laissez-faire and 



control in the interest of society as a whole. Finally, there is 
the antithesis between self-expression, on the one hand, and 
self-repression on the other. This third form is more asso- 
ciated with activities of art and literature and with the life 
of culture in general. The ideal of self-expression is con- 
nected with that of the full development of individuality and 
is often in opposition to what is called conventional morality. 
It may be said that in the main modern ethical thought is 
in agreement in the belief that these contrasts and conflicts 
we find in practice and in popular thought are really not so 
absolute as they appear. It is generally held, for instance, 
that, as we say, "enlightened self-interest" and the interests 
of others are identical in the long run; that true self- 
expression and the rights of social convention are ultimately 
in harmony; that true individualism and collectivism are 
not really opposed. It is true that the grounds for this belief 
are often quite superficial and the resolutions of the conflicts 
proposed ignore both the difficulties and complexities of the 
problems involved. It is true also that there are both absolute 
egoists and absolute altruists for whom no such conciliation 
is possible. In the main, however, such conciliation of egoism 
and altruism is held to be possible. This is the view of the 
present writer. We shall attempt to show that this opposition 
rests upon artificial distinctions and false assumptions, and 
that apparent and partial contradictions between the two can 
not be argued in favor of a complete one. Conciliation of the 
two is theoretically possible and practically realizable. The 
first step in this task is to take up the fundamental question 
of the nature of the human self, i.e., what the true self 
really is. 


The true self, it is said, is a social self; the individual, 
rightly understood, is a social being. Three lines of argu- 
ment have contributed to this view. They are taken from 


biology, psychology and general philosophical reflection. 
Taken together, and properly understood, they form a con- 
siderable body of evidence for this position. 

Probably the most considerable contribution of modern 
biology to our working conception of the world in which we 
live is the idea of society as an organic unity. The meaning 
of this, broadly speaking, is that, just as we recognize a 
common life animating all the members of which a living 
body is composed, so we must acknowledge a similar unity 
among the members of a human society. The idea itself is, 
of course, very old (in a non-biological form it is present in 
both Greek and Christian thought) but it has been the 
peculiar service of biology to rehabilitate this conception and 
to present it in a form that has made it convincing to the 
modern man. 

The idea has indeed sometimes been presented in the form 
of a somewhat extravagant analogy. Attempts have been 
made to draw parallels between the structures of human 
societies and the constitution of human and animal bodies. 
The individual is conceived of as a cell in the organic tissue 
of society, and different social groups compared to different 
organs of the body. Differentiation and integration of func- 
tions in society have been spoken of as though there were 
no difference between social and organic life. Herbert 
Spencer set the fashion, and this method was carried out in 
minute detail by many writers such as the German Schdffle 
in his Structure and Life of the Social Body. Such analogies 
are, no doubt, suggestive to a degree, but are on the whole 
more ingenious than convincing. When made to "go on all 
fours", they lead to positive error. The element of truth in 
the entire conception lies in the recognition of the fact that 
human society has at least an organic basis, and that, in so 
far as this basis is determinative, it leads us to think of the 
individual as part of a larger whole. Professor E. G. Conklin 
has put this truth in the following way. "With respect to 


the opposing principles of individual freedom and social co- 
operation, liberty or duty, individualism or socialism/' he 
writes, "there can be no question as to the biological answer. 
The whole course of evolution shows that the most essential 
feature of biological progress consists in the subordination of 
minor unities to the larger units of organization. Does this 
same rule apply to man?" he asks. If so, he is inclined to 
believe that what we know as individualism and democracy 
"would seem to be doomed to destruction." 


The individual man is, then, organic to society, but his 
true relation is not adequately described by the merely 
organic analogy. Indeed sociality, in this sense, is not that 
which specifically distinguishes man. In many animals, such 
as the ants and bees, sociality, in the sense of organization, 
is more highly developed than in man. It is not to be won- 
dered at that those who think wholly in organic terms should 
sometimes place these forms of sociality above the human. 
That which distinguishes man is his social consciousness. In 
the case of the human species the distinguishing mark is 
rather the will to place oneself in the whole. The over- 
individual totality which constitutes a human society is, 
therefore, of a volitional character and is directed towards 
ends of the will. To mark this difference we have described 
human society as hyper-organic. The individual's relation to 
it is more than the organic relation of the part to the whole. 
It is at this point that psychological rather than biological 
conceptions come into play. 

There are two points at which modern psychology has 
made significant contributions. It has made it clear to us 
that, so far as native endowment is concerned, man is as 
much an altruist as an egoist. It has also shown us that what 
we call the self, or personality, is not something that is 


inborn but acquired, and that its acquisition is the product 
of social intercourse or interaction with society. 

The first of these points is of real importance for ethical 
theory. The psychology which underlay the individualism 
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries assumed more 
or less without question that man is by nature "selfish", 
that the egoistic instinct, as it was called, in its elementary 
form the instinct of self-preservation, is inborn; while all 
sympathetic instincts that we call altruism are secondary 
and developed in the experience of the individual and the 
race. According to this view (as developed by such ethical 
and social thinkers as Hobbes) the individual came to have 
other-regarding impulses only because he learned by expe- 
rience that only by sacrificing some of his egoistic impulses 
could he, as an individual, persist in his being. The "state of 
nature" was a war of all against all, a struggle mitigated 
only by painfully acquired altruism. Contemporary psychol- 
ogy recognizes that this is an extremely artificial and dis- 
torted picture. Altruism, in its most primitive form, is as 
original as egoism. Natural selection evolved altruistic no 
less than egoistic tendencies in the interest of the survival 
of the race, the chief of which, perhaps, the maternal in- 
stinct, is the most fundamental. Some thinkers, such as the 
sociologist Briffault, believe this instinct to be the source of 
all sympathy and altruism. Be this as it may, the primitive 
character of altruism is undeniable. As a consequence, ethi- 
cal theory is justified in two conclusions that are of impor- 
tance for this discussion. On the one hand "altruism" as 
such, is a merely natural non-moral quality and becomes 
moral only in the light of the forms it takes on, or the 
objects towards which it is directed. On the other hand, the 
self is a social self, in that any development or realization of 
the self must include the exercise and realization of the 
other-regarding tendencies which constitute a part of that 


The second contribution of modern psychology is of no 
less importance for ethics. The notion which underlay the 
earlier individualism was that the self is, so to speak, by 
nature and from the beginning, a unitary indivisible whole, 
only externally, and to a limited degree, modified and de- 
termined by its interaction with other selves. Contemporary 
psychology, on the other hand, has, in the first place, 
accepted the fact or principle that the self-content is com- 
plex. The notion of a simple and undecomposable self 
revealed by intuition, is no longer held as applicable to the 
empirical self with which psychology deals. When held at 
all, it is thought of as applicable only to the self of knowl- 
edge, the transcendental self, as Kant called it. 

But more than this. Contemporary psychology looks upon 
the self as essentially a social product, and speaks of the 
social factor in the development of the notion of the self. 
By this is meant that the baby, when born into the world, is 
not a self in any significant sense. He is, so to speak, a mere 
bundle of instincts or tendencies, with, at most, the poten- 
tiality of self-hood. It has been shown that self-hood and 
the idea of the self that goes with it, grows by imitation and 
suggestion, being gradually built up under the stimulus of 
the social life, correlativcly with the notion of the other 
person or alter. J. M. Baldwin developed a scheme of stages 
of this development under the term, "the dialectic of per- 
sonal growth." Psychologists differ greatly as to the nature 
and extent of the native endowment of the new-born child, 
but all agree that it does not include self-hood or personality. 
They differ widely as to the stages and factors in this per- 
sonal growth, but all agree that it is a growth and that the 
factors are fundamentally social. 


Biological and psychological ways of thinking have, then, 
both contributed to our growing emphasis on the idea of 


society as an over-individual whole and of the individual as 
essentially a social being. But the problem of the relation of 
the individual to society is, after all, only one aspect of a 
larger problem of general philosophy, namely the relation of 
individual things of any kind to the whole world of which 
they are a part. In philosophy the two possible views are 
Pluralism and Monism. Which is the metaphysically ulti- 
mate, the individual entity or the systematic whole of which 
it is a part? 

It is a question how far one should enter into a meta- 
physical discussion of this kind in an elementary treatise on 
ethics, but some reference to the problem seems necessary 
for the following reasons. For one thing, egoists, or extreme 
individualists in ethics, are likely to be pluralists in their 
general philosophy. They have an "atomistic" conception of 
the self, and they are likely to justify it by an appeal to an 
atomistic or pluralistic view of reality as a whole. But in the 
second place, the social conception of the self we are here 
developing, while increasingly justified by biological and 
psychological science, was in the first instance formulated by 
the philosophers, and the final arguments are still philosophi- 
cal or metaphysical. 

It may be fairly said, I think, that the general tendency 
of science as a whole is monistic in this sense. The sciences 
of biology and psychology, as we have seen, tend to explain 
and interpret the individual entity in terms of the larger 
whole rather than the whole in terms of the individual. This 
tendency is, moreover, common to all science, which assumes 
and strives to prove that the plurality of things can be 
understood as one system of relations. The general tendency 
of philosophy is in the same direction. Even the pluralists 
tend to believe that at least the tendency in the universe is 
towards greater and greater wholes and that the direction of 
the development in knowledge is towards totality. 

The thesis of this general position is that the true nature 


of any individual can not be known or defined apart from 
its relations to others and its place in the whole. A poetic 
expression of this idea is found in the oft-quoted lines of 

"Flower in the crannied wall 
If I knew you, what you are, all in all, 
I should know what man is and God is." 

The idea here expressed is that even to know what the 
flower is in its full reality, we must know the other things 
in the system of nature of which it is a part. On the other 
hand, to know any one thing fully, such as the flower, would 
involve the knowledge of the entire system of which it is a 
part. All of which implies that any individual thing is a 
center of relations, that the relations are part of its nature. 

Now whatever may be true of things of flowers or 
stones, of atoms or electrons it is certainly true of men that 
it is their relations that constitute their nature. When they 
enter into social relations their nature is really affected by 
so doing. The relation of fatherhood or friendship, or what 
not, is not external to the individuals thus related, but enters, 
so to speak, into their very souls, and becomes a part of their 
very nature. Part of a man's nature is precisely that he is a 
husband and a father, a citizen and a worker. It is possible, 
to be sure, to think of him as abstracted from those rela- 
tions, but that would be, in Hegel's terms, a "false abstrac- 

The truth of these conceptions can be shown in a concrete 
and practical way by reflecting upon what it is that makes 
men take their own lives. Ignoring those cases of suicide 
where the causes are obviously what we call temporary in- 
sanity, the reasons may be summarized in the phrase "life 
is no longer worth living." When we examine more closely 
what this means, almost invariably it appears that certain 
relations to others, necessary to give life meaning, have been 


sundered. A man loses his money and is no longer able to 
move in the circles to which he is accustomed. Or he loses 
his reputation or good name, again a function of his relations 
with his fellows. Or finally, he has lost wife, friend or chil- 
dren with which his own life and personality have been 
bound up. In short, the content of his self has been social, 
and when that content is lost he becomes, as it were, an 
empty shell, and life is no longer worth living. 

Laws against suicide, everywhere present in the western 
world, presuppose the same conception of the self. The indi- 
vidual's life is not his own. lie has assumed obligations, 
entered into human relations, become part of institutions 
in short he is a social self and the will of society, as em- 
bodied in the state, considers respect for his own life part of 
the "ethical minimum' 7 necessary for the maintenance of 
the social good. 

The individual is, then, a true individual only as he is a 
center of relations. It follows that true self-realization in- 
volves the recognition and development of these relations; 
or otherwise stated, he is a true self only as he is part of 
larger unities or wholes. The philosophy, on the other hand, 
that holds the individual to be ultimate and the social rela- 
tions external and accidental, looks upon these relations 
only as bonds to be broken. Freedom, self-realization, con- 
sist merely in setting free the primitive impulses of men, and 
result inevitably in an iconoclastic attitude towards all 
human institutions, such as the family and the state. What 
such a philosophy does not reckon with is the possibility that 
these relations and bonds may be the man's own very sinews, 
and that by the time a man has broken them all, he may be 
no man at all. 

The self-defeating character of this type of individualism 
has never been more eloquently shown than in Ibsen's 
famous play, Peer Gynt. Peer Gynt is an individualist of this 
type, whose maxim of life is: "Peer, to thyself be enough." 


After a life in which the following of this maxim has ended 
only in losing himself, Peer comes back to his native land 
an empty and broken man. In his hunger he strips off peel 
after peel of an onion, to get at the core. Each peel sym- 
bolizes in Ibsen's thought a layer of social content or rela- 
tions, and when the last is removed, there is nothing left. In 
this image Ibsen suggests the social nature of the self. 


Few of us would be disposed to doubt the general proposi- 
tion that the individual is a social being. But we might be 
permitted to wonder, perhaps, how so general and theoretical 
a proposition can be made to help us solve the practical 
problems of the relation of individual to individual and of 
the individual to society. We are told that a being who is 
not social must be either a beast or a god, that the individual 
can not develop in a vacuum, but we have still to see how 
such generalities are to help us to solve the problems of 
egoism and altruism in their various forms to harmonize 
the bitter conflicts of interest between individual and indi- 
vidual, between individual and society, between employer 
and employed. We must, as the saying is, "get down to 
cases." Let us then see how it is proposed to bring about a 
"conciliation of egoism and altruism" in the light of this 


Most moralists have usually tried to mediate between 
these two tendencies, to seek a compromise between the two 
extreme attitudes. In this they represent in general what we 
have called the morality of "common sense." This common 
sense attitude may be roughly and somewhat bluntly ex- 
pressed in the following way. The man whose actions are 


all egoistic or self -regarding is a knave; the man whose 
actions are all other-regarding is a fool. The former may be 
a fool as well as a knave, for pure egoism is in the long 
run self-defeating also. The wise and good man is he who 
strikes a proper balance between them. 

Now this is probably a fair picture of what most men in 
practice actually do and think. The average "worthy citi- 
zen/ 7 as he himself would say, indulges and asserts himself 
in certain respects and restrains himself in others. He thinks 
of his own interests a large part of the time, but this does 
not exclude the interests of others. On the other hand, his 
common sense tells him that, even when he devotes himself 
to the good of others, "self-sacrifice" can not intelligently go 
so far as to blind him to his own interests and welfare. He 
may in business put service above profit, but he cannot 
see how the best service is to be rendered if all profit to 
the individual is excluded. 

One of the classical attempts at a solution of the problem 
in this spirit is that of Herbert Spencer in his chapter en- 
titled The Conciliation of Egoism and Altruism. The method 
employed is to show that neither extreme egoism nor extreme 
altruism is really enlightened. Both are irrational in that they 
defeat their own ends each constitutes a self-defeating 

Let us start with pure altruism, or pure self-sacrifice, 
which, as we have seen, is sometimes identified with the 
moral attitude as such. We are presented with the picture 
of a poor London clerk, devoted to his family and some- 
what stupidly sacrificing himself at every point for what he 
considers their good. He denies himself sufficient food and 
the necessary clothes that would protect him from the 
weather. As a result he weakens his health and finally be- 
comes the prey of a disease which removes him from his 
family just at the time when his care and protection are 
most needed. Even granted that this pure altruism is morally 


a noble quality, it was unintelligent altruism, because it 
defeated the very ends it had in mind. 

The evils of "unregulated altruism," such as this have 
much wider ramifications than at first appear. Parents who 
sacrifice everything for their children may not only diminish 
their own capacity for serving them, but even create in them 
the very qualities of irresponsibility and selfishness which 
will later prove their undoing. The height of such folly is 
reached when love for the child takes the form of the denial 
to him of that discipline which he will later so sorely need. 

Unintelligent altruism, even from the standpoint of the 
altruist, defeats its own ends. Similarly unintelligent egoism 
defeats the very ends of the egoist himself. 

Illustrations are everywhere at hand. I choose one from 
my own observation which brings out the point as well if 
not better than most. A man of the powerful, self-centered 
type, rather brutal in his egoism, rode rough-shod over 
others in his business and political life, as well as in his 
personal relations. He was to himself enough. Rather late 
in life he married and, as is not infrequently the case in 
such persons, became devoted to his children as an exten- 
sion of his own self. He found, however, that he had alien- 
ated people to such an extent, had created a social vacuum 
around himself to such a degree, that it was extremely diffi- 
cult to provide for his children certain social advantages 
and connections which he now desired above all else. 

Even as an egoist, he had defeated his own ends by his 
egoism. His egoism was unintelligent because he had not 
been able to foresee what he would want in later life 
what his own selfishness would include. His self was so much 
a social self that an egoism, involving the denial of that fact, 
defeated its own ends. Analyses of this kind have been 
made by a great number of moralists. Guyau, the French 
philosopher, has pointed out that the will to power, as 
exemplified in the great historic tyrants, invariably has the 


result of creating just such a social vacuum around them. 
Their familiars are confined to sycophants and toadies. They 
lose touch with mankind, become the prey of all sorts of 
fears and illusions, and ultimately make their own lives 


The solution of the opposition of egoism and altruism 
thus proposed may be fairly described as a compromise. 
If one is to be an egoist, he should be an enlightened egoist, 
and if he is such he will see that he can not put through 
his own egoistic ends without acknowledging, and to a de- 
gree respecting, the ends of others. If one is to be an al- 
truist, he should be an enlightened one, and if he is such, 
he will see that he can not serve others without securing 
his own interests and developing his own powers. Enlight- 
enment of this sort results then practically in a sort of mid- 
dle ground or compromise. 

Now, no one would deny the element of wisdom or the 
practical value of this common sense way of looking at 
things. But enlightenment may be carried farther, and when 
this is done it results in a type of solution of the problem 
which may be described as conciliation rather than com- 
promise. This enlightenment consists in just that deeper 
insight into the nature of the self and of its interests which 
our preceding study of the self has, it is to be hoped, 
brought about. In general, compromise is a more or less 
external adjustment of interests or values, assumed to be 
in themselves irreconcilable in principle. Conciliation, on 
the other hand, is a reconciliation of apparently opposing 
positions through a more internal understanding of both 
positions, and an appeal to some standpoint of value that 
transcends them both. 

Ethical philosophers quite generally call attention to two 
fallacies, or false assumptions, that underlie this sharp op- 


position of egoism and altruism. The first of these is that 
moral quality or value attaches intrinsically to egoism and 
altruism as such. In reality they are neither good nor bad. 
They are instinctive and sub-moral and acquire moral char- 
acter only in relation to the ends towards which these in- 
stincts or tendencies are directed. In the second place, it 
is assumed that the good is exclusively that of the ego or 
the alter when, in reality, the highest goods transcend that 
distinction, or, in other words, are common good. 

Egoism is not necessarily evil, as is often supposed, but 
its good or bad is determined wholly by the objects or ends 
towards which it is directed. Egoism has the sub-forms of 
self-preservation and self-realization. The first of these may 
be distinctly good and in fact a duty. It all depends upon 
what the life is preserved for. Self-satisfaction involves 
satisfaction through something. Whether it be morally good 
or bad depends wholly on what it is through which, and 
in which, the self is satisfied. The same is true of self- 
realization. It depends upon what self is realized. Altruism, 
or self-sacrifice, is in itself no less neutral and non-moral. 
Altruism may, and history shows that it often does, attach 
itself to evil ends. Men's loyalties and self-sacrifices have 
been vicious almost as often as virtuous. The moral quality 
depends upon that for which the self is sacrificed. We have 
seen that self-preservation, self-satisfaction, and self-realiza- 
tion are morally empty and worthless if taken as ends in 
themselves. But if this is true, it is not clear why self-sac- 
rifice for the preservation, satisfaction or self-realization of 
another should have absolute value. 

It is then fallacious to think of self-affirmation as in- 
trinsically evil and self-denial as intrinsically good. Such a 
view is simply part of the formalistic theory, which holds 
that the moral quality of an act lies wholly in its "inner 
form", and is wholly independent of the ends or conse- 
quences of the act. The same criticisms that apply to form- 


alism in general apply also to this application of it. In fact, 
it has often been shown that altruism universalized would 
not lead to the highest good. We should have a situation 
analogous to that which existed on that apocyryphal island 
on which "the natives made their living by taking in each 
other's washing." There are reasons as we shall see later 
(Chapter XIV) for the extreme valuation ethical religions 
have always put upon altruistic motives, but these reasons 
do not justify the moral dualism expressed in the complete 
opposition of egoism and altruism. 

The second fallacy to which ethical philosophers quite 
generally call attention is even more fundamental and serious 
in its practical consequences. It is assumed, falsely we have 
seen, that the good is always somebody's good and that 
therefore we should always choose the good of others. This 
fallacy may be concretely illustrated by the case of St. 
Crispin who stole leather from the rich to make shoes for 
the poor. The motive in this case was undoubtedly one of 
sympathy and altruism. If the problem were merely one of 
the greatest welfare or happiness for the greatest number 
of individuals in a given practical situation, we should be 
strongly tempted to judge the saint's action favorably. His 
fallacy lay in the false assumption that the good of indi- 
viduals can be abstracted from the good of the whole. What 
he overlooked was the effect on society of the violation of 
the institution of property. The highest good is always over- 
individual in this sense, social or common good. 

The fallacy here is again one of vicious abstractionism. 
It is an abstraction to think of my good as something that 
I can gain or enjoy to the exclusion of others. The very 
nature of my self-hood makes that impossible. It is equally 
an abstraction to think that the good of another individual, 
the alter, is such a good. Altruism, in this limited sense, is, 
as has been well said, merely "egoism multiplied.' 7 If my 
individual good has no absolute value, there seems no reason 


why that of others should either. Enlightened ethical thought 
is coming more and more to the insight that the highest 
good is always the common good and that the highest func- 
tioning of man consists in activities that transcend the dis- 
tinctions of the self and the other. 


The primary form in which the opposition of egoism and 
altruism presents itself is in the selfishness and unselfishness 
of ordinary life. The two other forms in which it appears 
are the conflict of individualism and collectivism, or social- 
ism, in economic and political theory and practice, and the 
opposition of self-expression and self-repression, or "inhibi- 
tion," in the wider ranges or artistic and social life. The first 
of these will be considered in detail in later chapters. The 
second form of the conflict may with advantage be con- 
sidered here. The preceding conceptions may increase our 
enlightenment concerning this false opposition also. 

The self-defeating character of self-repression, as exer- 
cised either by the individual or by society, has been suffi- 
ciently emphasized in recent thought and practice. The 
disastrous results of excessive repression of natural and 
normal impulses is the burden of modern abnormal psychol- 
ogy. It is also a platitude of modern sociological thought 
that repression of individuality in the interest of supposed 
social ends defeats those very ends themselves. Progress, we 
are told, comes through variations, and the encouragement 
and stimulation of individuality is the very condition of 
social progress. 

All this has its element of truth, and the consequent 
emphasis upon self-expression in education and in art is not 
without a certain justification. On the other hand, the ex- 
treme of self-expression is equally self-defeating. Self-ex- 
pression is no more a good in itself than is self-preservation; 
it all depends upon the self that is expressed. If I start out 


to express myself before I have a self worth expressing, I 
never achieve one. This is peculiarly the case in the appli- 
cation of the idea of self-expression to education. It is, of 
course, right to consider each pupil's individuality and per- 
sonality and to train it in various ways. But to suggest to 
the pupil that his whole duty is to express himself is to 
initiate a process that is the direct opposite of true educa- 
tion. We all start with an extremely limited appreciation 
of the true values of things, and also with a rather confident 
opinion that the thing that does not please us is not worth 
much. True education consists in getting into contact with 
minds superior to our own, and thereby becoming capable 
of seeing things which we do not at first see, and appreciat- 
ing and understanding things which are above us. One can 
not imagine an education "more damnable" to use Mr. Gil- 
bert Murray's words, than one that would teach us to ex- 
press ourselves as we are. 1 


For our thinking, then, the conflict of egoism vs. altruism 
presents no ultimate difficulties. Practical wisdom and en- 
lightened theory agree in refusing to recognize any absolute 
conflict, or that any choice between two ultimate alternatives 
is here necessary. It cannot be denied, however, that many 
fine minds, and some of them of the keenest, refuse to recog- 
nize either any practical conciliation as possible or any 
rational or theoretical synthesis of the two as tenable. Pre- 
cisely in our own time there have been two redoubtable and 
uncompromising protagonists of these two opposing theories, 
Tolstoy the upholder of absolute altruism and Nietzsche 
the critic and opponent of altruism in all its forms. In con- 
trast to them, we find in Ibsen the representative of a medi- 
ating position which expresses in a general way the position 

1 Gilbert Murray, "The Crisis in Morals," Harpers Magazine, January, 


taken in this chapter. Our entire discussion may be made 
more vivid and concrete by reference to these famous writers. 
In general, we must go to literature for the more concrete 
and living presentation of moral experience and problems, 
and the problem of egoism vs. altruism is no exception to 
the rule. 


The supreme champion of absolute altruism in our own 
time is Tolstoy. In his novels and plays, no less than in his 
distinctively philosophical works, he consistently maintains 
(i) that moral goodness is identical with altruism and (2) 
that only in acts of self-sacrifice can the true self be realized. 
Egoism, whether in the form of the will to power or in grati- 
fication of the life of sense, is always self-defeating; and all 
his characters who attain to self-realization do so through 
insight into the illusions of egoism and through sacrifice of 
self to others. The philosophhy underlying this view Tolstoy 
has expressed in vivid and telling form in My Confession and 
On Life. 

The negative side of Tolstoy's position and argument is a 
development of the thesis of the self-defeating character of 
egoism which we have already considered. Nowhere in any 
literature has this thesis been developed so convincingly and 
with such uncanny insight into the hidden motives and ex- 
periences of men. To refer only briefly to some of the works 
in which the position is developed, there is the hideous work- 
ing out of sex egoism in the Kreutzer Sonata, of maternal 
egoism in The Power of Darkness, and of ordinary selfishness 
in The Death of Ivan Ilyitsch; and above all, perhaps, the 
marvellous contrasts of egoism and altruism in War and 
Peace. On the positive side he shows in truly marvellous 
fashion the joy of self-sacrifice for others, as in Master and 
Man, and the realization of self through identification with 
something bigger than our own little egos. 


Tolstoy is too intense for our western taste, and a certain 
fanaticism can not be denied at points. But no one can follow 
his thinking through without recognizing in him, not only a 
literary genius of the highest order, but a moral philosopher 
of uncommon insight and power. 


As the direct opposite of Tolstoy, we may take Nietzsche, 
the arch enemy of Christian love for neighbor, of altruism, 
and of all socialistic feeling and theory. While not an egoist 
in the vulgar sense of self-seeking, he is yet an uncompromis- 
ing critic of the ethics of sympathy and of the doctrine of 
altruism and self-sacrifice which is associated in his mind 
with Christian morals. 

Nietzsche approaches the problem from a totally different 
angle from that of Tolstoy. He is a naturalistic perfectionist, 
basing his entire theory of morals on biological evolution. 
For Nietzsche life means not merely survival; in its inmost 
nature it is the "will to power." Anything that enhances life, 
or the will to power, is good and all that inhibits it is bad. 
In his Genealogy of Morals and Thus Spake Zarathustra he 
never tires of exalting this will to power, and in the latter 
the Superman becomes his symbol for the "higher man." 

As a consequence of this main position, Nietzsche can not 
find words strong enough to condemn all self-abnegation, self- 
sacrifice, and asceticism in every form. Christianity, which 
to him embodies the principle of absolute altruism, he de- 
scribes as "the one immortal blemish of mankind." It is so 
because the principle of altruism and self-sacrifice, in every 
form, is inimical to life and the will to life. It is inimical not 
only in the narrow biological sense, that all sympathy for 
the weak tends to keep alive forms of life that the struggle 
for existence ought to eliminate, but also because it has 
in his view, implanted in man an entire morality of sym- 


pathy, a philosophy of values, that stands in the way of 
what he considers to be the highest development of man. 

Here again, Nietzsche, like Tolstoy, defends his thesis 
with an intensity and fanaticism distasteful to many. But 
no one with a fine psychological sense can fail to feel that 
Nietzsche has ferreted out, if not fundamental defects of 
sympathy, altruism and self-sacrifice, at least certain ob- 
vious perversions. Altruism or self-sacrifice, as ends in 
themselves, do tend to be self-defeating and inimical to 
life, and Nietzsche was not slow to see these facts. On the 
other hand, it is equally clear that Nietzsche was not able 
to make good his main criticism of Christian ethics, or his 
own thesis of absolute self-affirmation. For one thing, he 
misinterpreted the Christian conception. Christianity, from 
its founder to the present day, has never taught absolute 
altruism. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, etc., and thy 
neighbor as thyself." Self-love, in the sense of affirmation 
of the true self and of self-realization, is a central principle 
of Christian ethics Nor has Christianity ever given any 
value to self-denial or asceticism as ends in themselves. 
It is only as means to higher ends, just as the athlete, or 
any other man with a prize in view, denies himself that 
which is inimical to the higher end. On the other hand, 
Nietzsche himself was unable to carry out his purely egoistic 
principle. His practical ethics were to a large degree an 
ethics of self-sacrifice, sacrifice of the individual for the 
Superman that is to come. 


The study of these great protagonists of two opposing 
moral philosophies makes clear to us both the reasons for 
their extreme positions and the points at which their un- 
compromising attitudes display the element of unreason 
inherent in them. Fortunately for the student of ethical 
reflection there is a writer of the first order who has grasped 


the irrational element in both extremes and made it abun- 
dantly clear in a series of remarkable plays the Norwegian 
dramatist, Ibsen. 

Ibsen is generally described as an individualist, as a 
preacher of self-realization, and in the sense in which the 
term is used in this book, he is such. But there is no more 
bitter critic of egoism in all literature than the writer of 
Peer Gynt and Little Eyolj. We have already seen how in 
Peer Gynt he develops the thesis of the self-defeating char- 
acter of pure egoism. As a companion piece, written in the 
same period of his literary activity, we have in Brand, an 
equally penetrating criticism of the principle of absolute 
altruism. With uncanny insight Ibsen shows how this arch- 
altruist, Brand, this practicer of absolute self-abnegation, 
not only defeats the very ends he had in view, but himself 
becomes, by a sort of paradox, a spiritual egoist of a most 
unpleasant type. If the arch-egoist Peer Gynt, as a result 
of the illusions inherent in his egoistic point of view, in 
the long run defeats his own egoistic ends, and finally re- 
turns to his native land empty in pocket and in character, 
the arch-altruist also, by his fanaticism, empties and in the 
end destroys, the very self which he would give to others. 

Ibsen in these two contrasting plays is saying precisely 
what the ethical philosopher must say in more abstract and 
philosophical form. But he continues to be a mediator 
throughout his intellectual life. As he penetrates ever more 
deeply into the spiritual life of man, he makes it clear to 
us that all extreme forms of self-affirmation or self-abnega- 
tion defeat themselves. They are abstractions from life, and 
for Ibsen the one ultimate sin is this "vicious abstrac- 




* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. VI.; Bk. Ill, 

Chap. X. 

* J. Dewey and J. H.Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XXVI. 

* G. H. Palmer, Altruism, Its Nature and Varieties. 

* J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Chap. IX. 
Herbert Spencer, Data of Ethics, Chaps. XI-XIV. 
Leslie Stephen, Science of Ethics, Chap. VI. 

J. M. Mecklin, Introduction to Social Ethics, Chap. XIV. 
Williams, Evolutionary Ethics, Part II, Chap. V. 


* William James, Principles of Psychology, Chap. X, Briefer 

Course, Chap. XXVI. 

* C. L. Sherman, The Moral Self, Chaps. VI, VII. 

* M. W. Calkins, The Good Man and The Good, Chap. II. 
W. E. Hocking, Human Nature and Its Remaking. 

* J. A. Leighton, Man and The Cosmos, Bk. IV. 

J. M. Baldwin, Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental 

K. Koffka, Growth of Mind. 


Tolstoy (in addition to works mentioned in the text), What 
Men Live By and On Life. 
Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, The Will to Power and 

Thus Spake Zarathustra. 
P. E. More, The Drift of Romanticism, "Huxley" and 


* J. N. Figgis, The Will To Freedom, The Gospel of Nietzsche 

and the Gospel of Christ, Chap. III. 




The life of every man is a continuous process of choice. 
Even the refusal to choose, as William James was fond of 
pointing out, is itself a form of choice. No one can escape 
this fundamental character of human life, for it lies in the 
very nature of the life process itself. 

Every man seeks only the good. Even when he chooses 
that which is held or known to be evil, it is, as the old saying 
goes, sub specie boni, with the idea that it is the good. 
But the idea of the good implies necessarily the ideas of 
better and best. The result is that, from one aspect at least, 
the practical life of choice results constantly and necessarily 
in the formation of some scale or system of goods or values 
which constitutes what we often call a man's "philosophy of 
life." Now the "wise man/' as St. Thomas Aquinas said, "is 
he who puts things in their right order and controls them 
well." Into some order the things, the goods of life, will 
inevitably fall; the whole question is whether it is the right 

The goal of practical morals is, then, to put things in 
their right order; its fundamental task to determine the 
true relative values of things. It is in the achievement of 
this goal and in the prosecution of this task that ethical 
theory plays its chief role. Ethical reflection seeks "to bring 
our ordinary judgments of value, in so far as they tally 
with enlightened conscience, into a coherent system, dis- 
covering in them the principle of value which determines 



this order and system. " Each of the theories we have ex- 
amined has attempted to discover this principle of value. 
If one considers the pleasure principle to be the principle 
of value, he will inevitably attempt, as did Bentham, to 
order the goods of life according to a quantitative scale of 
pleasure; or perhaps, like Mill, find it necessary to introduce 
a qualitative scale also. If one accepts the principle of or- 
ganic survival or welfare as the essential of value, he will 
inevitably see in the degree of fitness, or adaptation to en- 
vironment, the criterion of relative value. If, finally, one 
sees in self-realization the principle of value, the relative 
values of the different objects of desire will be found in 
the degree to which the true self is realized in the satisfac- 
tion of different tendencies or functions. 

The task of the present chapter is then two-fold. The 
first is to explore the world of human goods or values, and 
if possible to bring them into a coherent system, in order 
that we may find a rational standpoint from which the 
practical choices of life shall be made. The second task is 
to discover the principle of value that determines this order 
or system. We have already found reasons for believing 
that the theory of self-realization alone gives us a satisfac- 
tory theory of the nature of ethical value. We shall now see 
that it is the only theory that enables us to explain and 
interpret the order and system in which men naturally and 
normally place the goods of life; that the relation of higher 
and lower among values is determined by the degree of 
self-realization involved. 

The consequences of this study will also be two-fold. We 
shall, in the first place, make the theory of self-realization 
more concrete. Until notions such as "perfection," or "total 
self-realization," are thus made concrete, they necessarily 
remain not only abstract and vague, but practically useless. 
But, in the second place, when this ideal becomes thus con- 
crete, it also becomes a principle in terms of which the prac- 


tical problems of morals may be solved. The present chap- 
ter affords therefore the natural introduction to the more 
practical aspects of morals. 


The unreflective "common sense" of men recognizes cer- 
tain classes of human goods or values. It also tends, as we 
shall see presently, to put these groups or classes in a certain 
order. Let us begin our study then with this natural or nor- 
mal grouping. We shall find that it ordinarily includes eight 
classes as follows: 1 

I. Bodily Values 

II. Economic Values 

III. Values of Recreation 

IV. Values of Association 
V. Character Values 

VI. Esthetic Values 
VII. Intellectual Values 
VIII. Religious Values 

These classes of values will be defined more fully as the 
discussion proceeds. The only merit we claim for this pre- 
liminary grouping is that it gives us a serviceable starting- 
point for the exploration of the field of human values. It 
may be claimed, however, I think, that these class names 
represent goods that are immediately understood and appre- 
ciated; that all possible values are included in these groups; 
and that all are actual values that is values universally 
recognized as representing things or objects that men do 
actually value. By some individuals some of these values 
may be thought of as of little importance, as for instance 
those included in the class, esthetic; by others some may, 

1 A similar table is found in W. G. Everett's Moral Values, Chap. VII. 
In general when such a table is constructed it takes this form. 


perhaps, be thought of as negative or of actual disutility, as 
in the case of the religious values in Soviet Russia. But no 
one would deny that a merely empirical grouping must con- 
tain all these values. 1 


Thus far we have merely a grouping not an order or 
system. Yet even in this grouping there is a kind of order. 
The presentation of these groups in merely numerical 
arrangement suggests an order that is more than numerical. 
The mere fact that in putting them down on paper, they 
can not be presented all at once, but must be put one after 
the other, involves some selection; and in this selection we 
include, almost instinctively as it were, another type of order 
than the numerical. We might have begun with religious 
and esthetic values and ended with bodily values, or we 
might have mixed them all up; but something led us to put 
them in an order that would also suggest their relative im- 
portance. That which led us to do this, I think, is the fact 
that in the very notion of value itself is included the idea of 
more or less value, in other words of degree. To arrange 
values in any way that did not also suggest their relative 

1 It may be interesting to compare this table of values with the table of 
activities or "functions" in terms of which the authors of the sociological 
study, Middletoivn, made their investigation of the life of a typical American 
small city. 

"This study," they state in the Introduction, "proceeds on the assumption 
that all the things people do in this American city may be viewed as falling 
under one or another of the following six main-trunk activities: 

Getting a living. 

Making a home. 

Training the young. 

Using leisure in various forms of play, art, etc. 

Engaging in religious practices. 

Engaging in community activities." 

They are careful to insist that "this particular grouping of activities is 
used with no idea of its exclusive merit, but simply as a methodological 
device," although they refer to a similar classification or grouping of activi- 
ties in Rivers' Social Organization. We may suggest that scarcely any other 
grouping is possible; and also that the values realized in these activities 
are the fundamental values of which any ethics must take account. 


value or importance would have something irrational in it. 

Now I think it is true that almost any one would put these 
groups in something like the order chosen, and for the rea- 
sons indicated. The idea that one had in mind might be that 
the bodily and economic values are fundamental in that 
they are absolutely necessary for life, while the other groups 
are progressively less and less necessary. On the other hand, 
one might have the idea that while these are necessary for 
life, they are not as significant as the other values. He might 
call these the lower values and the others progressively 
higher and higher values. Whether, then, we interpret this 
order from the standpoint of what is basal or fundamental 
to life, or from the standpoint of what is more significant 
for the good life, in either case the goods or values would fall 
into this order, and that is the only point with which we are 
here concerned. 

Our task is then to explain or interpret this natural order. 
Before proceeding further in this interpretation, let us note 
something else. Almost any one would, we have said, put the 
goods of life in these classes, and the classes in something 
like the preceding order. But he would also do something 
else. He would naturally divide this table of values into three 
distinct groups. 

The bodily, economic and recreation values would nat- 
urally be thought of together, for they all involve the satis- 
faction of wants connected with what we may call the bodily 
self. The character values and the values of association 
would be thrown together, for they are connected with the 
social self and arise only in relations of the self to others. 
The esthetic, intellectual and religious values also go to- 
gether because, however related to the bodily and social self, 
however conditioned by them, they really arise only in some 
functioning of the self that goes beyond them. We may say 
then, I think, that this division of values into three groups is 
not wholly arbitrary, but that it springs from some principle 


inherent in the nature and the relations of the values them- 

Making use, then, of concepts that are already to a large 
extent familiar, we may present our table of human values 
in the following form: 



I. Organic^ Economic 
[ Recreation 

II. Hyper-organic 

., , . c . r f Association 

1. Values of Sociality -4 _. 

[ Character 


2. Spiritual Values^ Esthetic 


Most of the terms in this classification need no special 
comment. The distinction between organic and hypcr- 
organic has already been made abundantly clear in Chap- 
ter VI. The values of sociality, in the two forms of associa- 
tion and character values, are entirely understandable in 
the light of our discussion of the true self as the social self. 
It is clear, not only that self-realization is conditioned by 
association with others, and that the values of such associa- 
tions involve greater degrees of self-realization than the 
merely organic functionings, but also that what we call char- 
acter, and its values, is a creation of this level of association. 

It is the second class of values under the hyper-organic, 
namely the spiritual, that needs special comment here. First 
as to the term itself. The word spiritual is perfectly well 
understood and has a plaoTin eveiy developed language. In 


its first meaning it isanything that is not corporeal, and 
tKaTlhere are~many objects or things in the world that are 
not physical, everyone but the crass materialist recognizes. 
In this sense all hyper-organic values are spiritual. But there 
is also a second meaning, according to which the term is used 
to characterize those objects of human interest which are of 
an ideal nature, such as truth, goodness and beauty. These 
are, as we say,things ot the spirit; and he is said to be 
who i^ qpnQitiw tn nfrjprt.s n,pr| relations 

Of the spiritual values, as thus understood, the intellectual 
values of knowledge are those that are immediately appre- 
ciated. Knowledge has a highly instrumental value and is 
appreciatedj^a means J^Jiie acquisition of bodily anrj ern^ 
nomic good. Its possession is also in certain ways, and to a 
certain degree, the condition of important social values. The 
value of education and the right to education are therefore 
recognized as conditions of self-realization. A man needs 
knowledge if he is "to make something of himself." But 
knowledge, in the sense of knowing and understanding for 
their own sakes, is felt to be, not only a good in itself, but 
also the indispensable condition of any genuine self-hood. 

Less easily appreciated, perhaps, are the esthetic values. 
Yet they also are everywhere present in the ordinary life 
of men. A man not only wants an automobile to drive in, 
but he wants the lines to be flowing and beautiful. He not 
only wants a house to live in or a building to work in, but 
he wants certain esthetic qualities to these buildings which 
may give him permanent satisfaction. Much of the beauty 
of "things 77 of clothes, houses, etcj is the product of 
social mode and ephemeral taste, but a significant residuum 
is intrinsic. 

It is not difficult to see wherein the intrinsic value of 
esthetic experiences lies. The esthetic capacity is, in_ 
some form and in some degree, present in every individual. 


The power to appreciate immediately the rich content of 
color, line, form, sounds, etc. (to say nothing of the cul- 
tural heritage of created beauty in the arts), is not only a 
source of pleasure, as we say, but one of the chief conditions 
of the socializing and humanizing of men. Without hesita- 
tion we may then say, that esthetic value is widely present 
in all satisfactory living, and that the realizations of what 
we call beauty are a large part, and in the end an indis- 
pensable condition, of total self-realization. 

The religious values are the spiritual values par excel- 
lence. Tn3eed, one meaning of the word spiritual given in 
the" dictionaries is "pertaining to divine things." From a 
purely psychological and sociological point of view, engag- 
ing in religious practices and getting the values which come 
from those practices, is an essential part of the "behavior' 7 
of man. Nor do many deny that religion, and religious 
beliefs and practices, have instrumental value in the eco- 
nomic and social life of mankind. A sense of stewardship, 
of the duty to make the best of the opportunities that God 
has given one, may make a man "diligent in business, serv- 
ing the Lord." The influence of religious beliefs and senti- 
ments in the development of the economic life of America 
has been pointed out by various writers. Again, the place 
of religion as a means of "social control" has been empha- 
sized ad nauseam by recent sociological writers. But when 
all this is recognized, it is, after all, as intrinsic values, as 

'* 'X^J'- V^^^>^_^X^"< * ^^^ \x^~ 

forms of realization in the individual fife of man, _that 
i^ltejou^vajuesh^e their highest moral significance. It is 
in this sense that they are understood when put imo the 
class of spiritual values. 



A more complete exploration of the field of human values 
requires a further differentiation and expansion of these 


general groups. This can best be accomplished by following 
the clues of the fundamental wants or needs of man. Our 
first definition of value was, indeed, "whatever satisfies a 
human want/' Now it is a belief, of popular psychology at 
least, that man is in possession of a set of fundamental 
wants, the satisfaction of which constitutes his normal 
well-being and the arrest or inhibition of which, ill-being. 
These are commonly called instincts and the self thus con- 
stituted may be described as the instinctive self, in contrast 
to the rational self to be realized. 

It is unfortunate for our present purpose that recent 
"scientific" psychology is against our using instinct in this 
natural and popular sense. If we were constructing a table 
of values a decade ago we should be allowed to use this 
term without any question. William James stated that the 
existence of instincts "on an enormous scale in the animal 
kingdom needs no proof"; and went on to say that "man 
is distinguished from the other animals, not by the absence 
of instincts but by their comparative multiplicity." Today 
some psychologists talk of giving up instincts altogether, 
although popular opinion is in the directly opposite direc- 
tion. The question really turns largely on an ambiguity in 
the term instinct. In sociological and ethical thought the 
term is used mainly to designate certain dispositions or 
tendencies which may be taken as fundamental springs of 
action. For the psychologist, the notion has also invariably 
included the idea of innateness. Some psychologists believe 
today that there is experimental and other empirical evi- 
dence which goes to disprove the innateness of the majority 
of those impulses we have hitherto called instincts. Now 
it does not follow that the absence of dispositions or ten- 
dencies in infancy disproves their existence in man. Some 
hereditary traits such as sexuality and walking may require 
the growth and maturity of the structures involved. On the 
other hand, it seems unlikely that these fundamental im- 


pulses or springs of action are merely habits. The present 
writer favors the hypothesis, shared by many psychologists, 
that the principal primary impulses or drives are really 
instincts, fixed in prehistoric, and to a considerable extent 
prehuman, ages. They are modifiable, of course, but not 
to the extent that they would be if they were merely habits. 
In any case these technical questions need not disturb us 
here. From the standpoint of constructing a table or sys- 
tem of values, there are certain dispositions or tendencies 
which, whether innate or acquired, are fundamental and 
universal enough to be made the basis of human values. 
Whether we call them interests or instincts is immaterial. 
"Interest and instinct are," in the words of Professor R. B. 
Perry, "the same thing save that instinct implies a further 
theory of inheritance that must, for the present at least, be 
regarded at best as a probable hypothesis. 7 ' l 

Ignoring then these technical questions, not because 
they are unimportant from the point of view from which 
they have been raised, but because they do not affect the 
use which we wish to make of the concept of instinct, we 
may say that all these values correspond to fundamental 
instinctive needs or wants of men. Thus, any classification 
of instincts would include the instincts of hunger, sex and 
play, out of which the bodily needs and those of recreation 
arise. It would also include the gregarious instinct and the 
instincts of self-affirmation and self-denial, with which the 
values of association and of character are connected. It 
could scarcely fail to connect the intellectual values of man 
with that curiosity, so basal in both animals and men as 
to have given it the name of instinct. While there might be 
difference of opinion as to the exact instinctive basis of 
esthetic activities, whether for instance they may or may 
not be related to the play impulse, as Karl Groos held; and 

1 General Theory of Value, p. 214 ff. 


while some might deny any instinctive basis whatever to 
the religious emotions; surely these too are fundamental 
and universal enough to be recognized as basic springs of 
action, and therefore as instincts in our uncritical use of 
the term. 

With these considerations in mind, we present the follow- 
ing table of values, the reader to make use of the term, 
instinct or interest, as he prefers: 


Values Instincts (or Interests) 

Bodily Hunger, Sex 

_ . f Property Acquisition, Bodily Activity 

Economic -I T , JT^. 

|^ Labor and Expression 

Recreation Play 


Values Instincts 

Association Values Gregarious instinct 

Character Values Sympathy 

Self-assertion, Self- 


Values Instincts 

Intellectual Curiosity 

Esthetic Values Play (?) 

Religious Values Religious Instinct 

(Reverence?) 1 

1 Reverence is generally recognized as not simple, but as the result of a 
complex of instincts or impulses. 



It goes without saying that the ideal of self-realization, 
as we have defined and developed it, implies and requires 
the satisfaction of all these tendencies, or the realization of 
all these values. Self-realization is inone sense but a j>lan- 
ketjerm for the complete ^l^^jfflg^ all man's capacities. 

The~actual truth, however, is that it is only an ideal, in the 
sense that it describes only a direction in which man's con- 
scious activity may be directed. There is no such thing as 
total self-realization, realization of the self all at once, or 
in one act. Life is a process, by its very nature a series of 
choices. It is of necessity a sacrifice of one value for an- 
other. It is only in youth that we believe in infinite possi- 
bility that we can be anything we want, and all things at 

It follows that, as we have seen, the very process of self- 
realization involves the putting of these goods of life in 
some sort of order. It becomes then merely the question of 
the right order. Even in any table of values there is, as 
we have seen, some kind of order. We have indicated also 
that the order or system of values developed out of 
this natural order, represents that which is normal to the 
valuing life of man and corresponds to what is common 
sense in values. We must now attempt to discover the prin- 
ciple or principles which determine these preferences and 
thus constitute the normal order of human values. 


There are three principles which are generally recognized 
as present in determining our choice or preference among 
goods or values. Injjeneral, iutnnsic^ values are ratedhighr 
thaninstrumental or extrinsic; permanent values higher 

* --- ^^v^^\^^^ v *-^~"l^--~V'->^ S.X^-^'^ - N^>~V^-^X^^S^X 

than transient,; <J&$u#w$ nigher than ungroductiye. It is 
our tasicnow to attempt to "s!ww(iyTiiat these principles 


are inherent in the nature of value and (2) that their appli- 
cation to the groups of values we have distinguished results 
in the order that we have shown to be normal to the valu- 
ing consciousness of men. In fulfilling this task we shall at 
the same time be enabled to develop further the meaning 
of the classes we have distinguished. 

Starting with the bodily values, it is not difficult to see 
that these values, and the economic values of property and 
labor that derive from them, are primarily instrumental 
rather than intrinsic. In the case of the economic values 
there can be no doubt. Economicgoods are valuable only 
^o^^ value^anoultimately the 


In the case of the bodily values there may be some 
question as to whether they are not goods in themselves. 
The satisfaction of the instinct of hunger is indeed accom- 
panied by a pleasurable state of consciousness which may 
easily appear to be an intrinsic good, especially after we 
have been denied its satisfaction for a considerable time, 
and certainly starvation may seem to be an intrinsic "bad." 
But after all, there is fundamental wisdom in the saying 
that we "eat to live, not live to eat." If we follow thought 
to its conclusion, we cannot escape the inference that, after 
all, the pleasures of the table cannot be made an end in 
themselves without a perversion of values. The same is true 
of the other bodily values of sex and recreation. It is doubt- 
less true that, as we shall see, both men and women speak 
more frankly of the ''physical satisfactions" of sex as part 
of love, and there is doubtless an intrinsic element in these 
satisfactions. But the distinction between lust and love is 
ingrained in the experience of the race, and sex relations 
between men and women are recognized as losing a large 
part of their value unless they are instrumental to the 
realization of personal values also. Play has value in itself, 
but it also is mainly instrumental, in the sense that it is a 


means of recreation of bodily and spiritual functions. No 
one but the veriest puritan would deny some intrinsic value 
to play, but its chief function is, after all, as is almost intui- 
tively recognized, to keep us "fit." In any case, play as an 
end in itself is pretty definitely recognized as a perversion 
of values. 

The application of the second principle brings out the 
subordinate character of these values even more clearly. 
We need not here inquire why man seeks the permanent, 
the durable satisfactions of life rather than the transitory. 
There can be little question also as to where human ex- 
perience has taught us that the more permanent values are 
to be found. The senses soon weary and cease to respond 
with pleasure to repeated stimuli, whereas the ideational 
activities are capable of comparatively long and unwearied 
exercise. Unless our life becomes filled with ideal content, 
unless it turns more and more to the values of association 
and character, and ultimately to the more permanent values 
of the mind and spirit, it is likely to be made up of long 
periods of boredom and weariness between the more in- 
tense sensuous gratifications. The bodily values, and the 
economic goods which are necessary instruments in secur- 
ing them, are all indispensable conditions of life and ulti- 
mately of the good life. As such, they are always the pri- 
mary objects of man's desire. But they can not be made 
ends in themselves, or the permanent objects of man's con- 
scious will, without initiating that self-defeating process of 
which the hedonistic paradox is the classical expression. 1 

The choice of the productive rather than the unproduc- 
tive values constitutes still another principle of organization. 
It is characteristic of merely instrumental values that they 
are used up in the process of being used. This is the law of 
material things, but it is also more or less a law of the 

1 Chapter IV, p. 89. 


bodily values which the material things produce. In contrast 
to these, the hyper-organic values are progressively more 
and more productive, both for the individual and for the 
society of which he is a part. Especially do the spiritual 
goods of knowledge, art, and religion escape the law in- 
herent in all material things; they multiply in distribution 
and suffer no loss in division. To share these things with 
others is not to impoverish one's self, but rather to increase 
one's own store. Goods of this sort are not only over- 
individual, but they transcend the boundaries of nations. 
The more common and universal they are. the more produc- 
tive they become. 

These three principles serve to explain the quite general 
subordination of bodily and instrumental values to the 
"higher" values of human association and character and 
to the over-individual values of knowledge, beauty and re- 
ligion. They explain also, I think, the equally general subor- 
dination of the "social" values to the "spiritual." Associa- 
tions of various kinds, between man and man and between 
man and woman, those which we describe as love, friendship 
and community of interest in common ends all these are 
more intrinsic, more permanent, and more fertile in crea- 
tion of new values than are the merely bodily or instrumen- 
tal goods. But even these have their limitations. The human 
self is indeed a social self, and for this reason his relations 
with others are, as it were, his very nerves and sinews. But 
in a sense also he is over-social in his interests, and the 
common good which transcends distinctions of the self and 
the other is the source of his most permanent as of his most 
fruitful joy. 


These three principles of value, which we have now seen 
at work in the process of ordering the goods of life, are in 
the first place maxims of practical wisdom. The man of 


mere common sense would normally recognize in them guid- 
ing principles which are more or less present in the ordinary 
activities of daily life. To sacrifice the durable satisfactions 
of life for the transient, the goods that are sterile for those 
that have in them the capacity of their own multiplication, 
to lose sight of the ends of life in concentration on the 
means are all felt to be the signs of folly, to be, as it were, 
practical fallacies characteristic of the unenlightened will. 
To be sure, there is in us that which says that "it is not 
wisdom to be only wise.' 7 There are times when any kind of 
calculation seems mean when concentration on the imme- 
diate, the mere means of life and the apparently useless and 
unfruitful, appear as signs of the larger mind. But these 
exceptions but "prove the rule" and cannot be erected into a 
principle. In any case, the wisdom of life, among all peoples 
and in all times, has expressed itself in maxims of this 
kind. 1 

These principles are then maxims of practical wisdom. 
But they are more than that. They are laws of value, that 
is, they are ways by which we determine the higher and the 
lower, the greater and the lesser good. Even Bentham, who 
found the locus of value in the pleasurable state of con- 
sciousness as such, formulates similar laws for the deter- 
mination of our choices among pleasures. Now even if we 
think of human good as "happiness/ 7 
choose the intrinsic over the instrumentaTftKe durable over 
tn^J{ansitry, ^noJ^mf^Sl^^ just 

as we find in the notion of self-realization a more adequate 
conception of ethical value, so we find in the concept of 
degrees of self-realization a more adequate interpretation 
of this hierarchy or scale of human values. 

Realization we found interchangeable with functioning, 

1 In his famous philosophical work, On Life,' Tolstoy hast collected maxims 
from the highest wisdom of all peoples and all times 'which illustrate these 
principles. f ' 


and it js in the energizing _of the functions of man that are 
found trie veritable goods or values of human life. But the 
functionings are part of the man himself they constitute 
in themselves the realization or perfection of the self. The 
self is, however, more involved in some types of functioning 
than in others, and for this reason the elemrji__o--&elf- 
realization is present in greater degree oh the higher levels 
of value than on the lower. 

The standard of value expressed in this system of values 
may then be stated thus. 

tributes most to the coherent functioning of our life or cx- 
a._whole. from the standpoint of our interests, 

_ , 

tendencies or functions tnWe^Valifes^lrf (PWghest wKich 

degree ot integratior 

_^^**^__^->^__s~ < **^ ii ^>*^**^^~* 

iqter^stetU^ the standpoint of objects of 

value^ those objects are highest^TTdchcontain in therntrle 
~oT\)rttgtn& aT5DtITTlii<rintc^^ 

*^*~^- " s ^ ^^^ S- V^>x. ^*<^^*<^^J ^^ 

of value is found then, not in degree of happiness, 
}iit in the f unctionaitonception of Total self-reahzanon, 


There are two additional comments which should be made 
on this table or system of human values as now developed. 
They are aspects which will be found to be of considerable 
importance in later connections. 

The first is that?^such a system furnishes norms of action, 
principles of choice. WeTiave only to see and acknowledge 
the right order of values to be under the obligation to 
choose according to that order. There is, so to speak, what 
the philosophers call an a priori relation between value and 
obligation, that is a relation that is both universal and 
necessary. The proposition that the good oughttobe chosen 

carTEegiven for this other^tKantKe fact that the opposite 



, atougo 

is repugnant to reason and can not be given an intelligible 
meaning, or, as the philosophers used to say, "can not be 

This principle of choice has been expressed in the propo- 
sition that "every action is right which in the nresence ofa 

^^*Z^*+^s~*>~^^<~-&~-*j ^-^~^^ ^J^^^<. ^-^ ^~< 

Icwep^rincml^ The essence 

the choice of higher values over lo\^f^FTls7~wel^all find, 
le urnrnatel}r~applicable to the determina- 
tion of one's duty in a specific situation. (Chapter XL) 
This principle cannot, to be sure, be applied "mechanically." 
Wecannotsay thatji^^j^rgan|c values should always be 
chosen over organic, personal values oveTT^dTTy^^^ 
are concntions wljr^ tms does not nokL Th&J^l^C va ^ ue ^7 
although lower than the values of characte 

fundamental to life. 

_ there are situations when "self-greservation Js^the first 
law oTliie 5 ' sotnere are situations where what we call bodily 
values take "ffieprecedenceof all othersTBuT^uclT'excep- 

T*^^,-^/ ^ . * ' , ''**'' ^p-^^ 7- ~*-"^w "V 

uonal situations do not alter the general rule. 

The second point is that, in considering the facts of this 
system of values, we have a clue, if not to the whole meaning 
of the "bad," still to an important part of it. We have before 
us an order or system of human goods, and in general 
human behavior directed towards the realizations of these 
goods is good or right conduct. In general also, human be- 
havior that militates against the realization of these goods 
is bad. 

But this is not the whole of the story. It is possible that 
any one of these goods may in turn become a bad under 
certain circumstances. We speak of people "choosing the 
better part." And much of evil consists in choosing the 
lower when we know the higher. The satisfaction of any 
need or want is in so far for a good. It is a form of func- 
tioning, or realization, and other than this we can give no 
meaning to the "good." But just because there is an in- 



trinsic, a right, order of values, perversion of this order con- 
stitutes the bad. 

This principle of the relativity of evil is generally recog- 
nized in^some^forin nByafl ethicaT^Kmkersr^The idea^of . 

\^^ < r--^x_.X^*>----*^ > ^-^' ^*'' N ^ - ++^s^*~ r S ~***~s'"**+^' ~*+-*^**+~ f ~* t **~^~++~/ ^*-* ^ ^**~* 

absolute evil of evil in itself is extraordinarily^ hard^tj? 
naTTyTl5icriias ^^ndeHnecT asT ^matter 
moral dirt may5e^^ougM of 
Tunc^^ a~we saw in 

- / "^-^ -^>-<^^^: N^^^^--^^^ ;^-^^Yr 

the case of tneegojstic and altruistic impulses, is in itself 
r. It gets ifs^quality of good or^Bad from its 
relaKontoofner functionings. The physical satisfactions of 
sex are a natural good, and as such morally neutral, but in 
a perverted scale of values they may become evil, and their 
enjoyment a vice. 


We have now explored the field of human values and 
attempted to formulate the principles by means of which 
their relative value, their order in a system of values, is 
determined. Our treatment thus far might give the impres- 
sion that all this is "theoretical," and does not correspond 
to the practical facts of life. Need it be said that this would 
be a serious error? Theory there has of course been, for 
without theory no explanation or interpretation of the facts 
of life is possible. But what theory there is has been built 
directly upon the facts of human valuation and develops 
directly from them. The test of any theory, however, is that 
it may in turn be made fruitful for further explanation and 
interpretation. We propose, therefore, to test our system of 
values by comparing it with the system of values pre- 
supposed and embodied in the law. 

The general relation of law to morals has already been de- 
fined. Law presu2oses_ethic3, tZgd, 4_Qncgned with the 

n ^ar)MpPtKie 
lifeoman in society. In terms of our present discussion, it 


maybe defined as an instrument for the protection 

First of all, then, laws exist for the protection an 
some cases, for the furthering of all these human ve 
In other words, the various goods, bodily, economic, s 
and spiritual, are all recognized as indispensable condi 
of the moral life of man, and are as such protected. Ba 
them are recognized fundamental needs of man, as 
which must be realized if the individual shall realize 
self, and if society is to continue and develop satisfact< 
To^hese^values correspond^j^laims or^rights," as the^ 
called, wh^^i^js^ori^ of the chief functions of law tc 
hold and protect. " ^^ 

In order to make our present point it is not nece: 
here to go into the important question of the ethical has 
human rights. It is enough that for every fundam 
value law recoghfzes^a^TTght, aM^law^aremade for 
he^nglit to life itselfTas^Siemost fundam 
of aurights, to bodily security, the right to the holdii 
property when it is acquired and more and more the 
to labor as an indispensable condition of life have inc 
ingly established themselves in modern law. There is 
the right to free marriage r within certain restrictions, a 
right to leisure and recreation, as more and more im 
in modern legislation governing the hours of labor and 
tecting the right to play of children. 

The values of the second level are similarly recog] 
in law. The free association of the individual with his 
lows is implicitly acknowledged as an indispensable c 
tion of his self-realization. Freedom to marry and to fo 
family, to form contracts and associations with our fe 
to further common interests, whether they be the acq 
ment of property or the protection and furthering o 
interests of labor or, finally, to form voluntary associa 
for the pursuit of the cultural interests of men, is care 


guarded. The right of free assembly, for social and political 
ends, has come to be viewed as an inalienable right of free 
moral beings. The acknowledgment of character values by 
law is expressed in the laws against libel and slander, and 
the rights of the person in general are protected by nu- 
merous laws, especially those governing legal separation and 
divorce. Even the much abused and oft-derided laws which 
enable individuals to recover for "alienation of affection" 
and the consequent humiliation of the person, are genuine, 
although clumsy, recognitions of these higher values of men. 
Finally, the values of the third level are also acknowl- 
edged by law and their conservation and furtherance sought'. 
The rights to free education and freedom of worship, only 
lately acknowledged in the development of the race, are, 
of course, partly the result of purely utilitarian considera- 
tions and practical necessities. We say that a man cannot 
be a good citizen without a minimum of education and that 
a democracy is impossible without an educated citizenry. 
But he understands poorly the development of modern edu- 
cation who does not see that the ideal that has controlled it 
and the laws which provide, often by compulsion, that 
every child shall receive an education proceed on the as- 
sumption that such education is the indispensable condition 
of self-realization, and that the right to such education is a 
moral right which springs out of its intrinsic values for the 
individual. The same is true of freedom of worship. Estab- 
lished in modern civilization, partly as the result of the dire 
civic and political evils that arise out of compulsion, it 
nevertheless rests, in the last analysis, on the belief that 
religion contains values for the individual; and that these 
values are realizable only when the functions that underlie 
them are free. Esthetic values are more precarious so far 
as the law is concerned. But even here, there are laws 
laws that seek, at least negatively, to protect us from ex- 
tremes of ugliness; and so far as education is concerned, 


induction, to a degree at least, into the esthetic values of 
the race, is considered part of the individual's privilege and 

We have now shown how all the fundamental human 
values are embodied in laws how close, in other words, the 
legal order is to the moral order. But the relation is more 
far-reaching than this. Law also embodies, roughly at least, 
the scale and the principles of value developed in the pre- 
ceding paragraphs. In the second of his lectures on the 
Carpentier Foundation of Columbia University, Judge Ben- 
jamin N. Cardozo, a distinguished jurist, brought out this 
point most clearly. 1 

He pointed out, first of all, the dependence of law on 
ethics, showing that legal concepts, when divorced from 
ethics, tend to become tyrants and fruitful parents of injus- 
tice. But he made it clear also that when conflicts in the 
law take place, the resolution of these conflicts always indi- 
cates that a certain scale of values is presupposed and cer- 
tain principles of precedence acknowledged. 

In general, we are told, moral ends take precedence over 
economic and economic over esthetic, moral ends meaning 
here, as the context indicates, the values of life and of the 
person. In other words, law tends to put the rights of per- 
sonality aboyejLk^ helid- 
mitsTtEereare numerous exceptions. We build skyscrapers, 
although smaller dwellings might be safer for the builders. 
We experiment with airplanes, although pilots run the ri$k 
of death. Yet even in these cases indifference to moral 
values is not as clear as it may seem upon the surface, as 
moral or cultural gains are often indirectly served or will 
be in the years to come. The law will not prevent the erec- 
tion of skyscrapers, but it may call for safety devices that 
will reduce the toll of lives. 

1 The Paradoxes of Legal Science, pp, 56 ff. 


It would be far from true to say that our law, in its de- 
velopment, explicitly embodies the scale of values normal to 
morals, or that the courts uniformly bring this scale into 
play in all their judgments. It is true, however, that pro- 
gressively more and more personal and social values are 
put above the values of property, and more and more what 
we have called the spiritual values are furthered and con- 
served. One may even hazard the supposition that the ten- 
dency for economic values to take precedence over esthetic 
is not so absolute as at first sight appears. There are signs 
at least that ugliness is coming to be recognized as a social 
evil, and that the subordination of temporary economic de- 
mands to the more permanent esthetic needs of men is 
beginning to express itself even in our legislation. 


It is out of this relation of law to the system of human 
values which we have been describing, that there springs 
that "respect for law" which characterizes all thoughtful 
people. Such respect for law is due not to any thoughtless 
formalism, but arises out of a sense of its close relation to 
the moral law within which, according to Kant, calls forth 
our deepest reverence. On this very question of respect for 
law there is much fallacious thinking at the present time. 
It is repeated parrot-like that "you cannot make men good 
by law," and in a sense this is of course true. Goodness, in 
the morq,l_s^se, x isautonomous and must sprmgTTom^he 
l^wjvithift. On the other hand, in or3ie?lo v ^odierTght men 
must know the right; and law, embodying as it does the 
ethical minimum necessary to the maintenance of the good 
life, is the first, if not the final, teacher of morality. The 
same thinkers who condemn the externality of law will, 
curiously enough, speak of social control through science. 
The only social control that is either practicable or desir- 
able is that which comes about through consciousness of 


values, and of the significance of the law in which these 
values are embodied. 


In concluding this chapter we may profitably look back 
for a moment to the beginnings of our ethical studies, and 
then cast our minds forward to the applications yet to come. 

Our study of the relation of law to human values has 
shown us that the law not only embodies the "minimum of 
morality," but that it enshrines in its structure the entire 
system of human values. In making this clear we have justi- 
fied beyond cavil the principle with which we started, that 
there is a large measure of general agreement on the more 
fundamental distinctions of right and wrong, good and bad, 
and that these agreements or conventions, as embodied in 
common sense and law, constitute the starting point of 

In the second place we have now given practical meaning 
to, and filled with content, the principle or ideal of total 
self-realization. We saw that such conceptions as perfec^, 
tion or self-realization are vague and useless until they are 
thus defined and made concrete. We have now shown 

total self-realization concretely means. 

In the third place, the system of human values gives us 
the key to the solution of the practical problems of moral. 
The questions, what ought I to have, what ought I to do, 
what ought I to be those problems which ethics have always 
considered under the heads of the rights, the duties, and the 
virtues of men can only be answered from the standpoint 
of a true understanding of human values. To the study of 
these more practical problems of morals we shall now turn. 



* W. G. Everett, Moral Values, Chaps. II, VII. 

H. W. Dresser, Ethics in Theory and Application, Chap. II. 
C. Bougie, The Evolution of Values, (trans.). 

E. Spranger, Types of Men, (trans.). 

* J. H. Dunham, Principles of Ethics, Chap X, (The Laws of 


B. Bosanquet, Some Suggestions in Ethics, Chap. III. 
W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, Chap. II. 
J. Laird, The Idea of Value, especially Introduction and 

Chaps. IX and X. 
W. M. Urban, Valuation, Its Nature and Laws. 


* William McDougall, Introduction to Social Psychology, 8th 

Edition, Chaps. Ill, IV, XIV. 

F. H. Allport, Social Psychology, Chap. III. 
J. Drever, Instinct in Man. 

L. L. Bernard, Instinct. 

* R. B. Perry, General Theory of Value, Chaps. VI, VII, VIII. 


Columbia Associates, Introduction to Reflective Thinking, 
Chap. XI. 

G. C. Cox, The Public Conscience, (for illustrations see Index). 
F. Pollock, Jurisprudence and Ethics. 

Roscoe Pound, Introduction to The Philosophy of Law. 
B. N. Cardozo, The Paradoxes of Legal Science, (especially 
Chap. II, on Values). 




All practical questions of morals can be put under three 
general heads: What ought we to do? What ought we to 
have? What ought we to be? To these three questions cor- 
respond the three fundamental notions of ethics, namely 
Duty, Right and Virtue. A complete answer to the question, 
what ought I to do, would be some sort of list of the funda- 
mental duties of man, summarized perhaps in what our 
fathers called "the whole duty of man." An answer to the 
second question, what ought I to have, would result in some 
table of human rights, which might for political purposes 
be embodied in what our fathers called a a bill of rights." 
An answer to the third question, what ought I to be, would 
result in some picture of the "virtuous man," of whom our 
fathers, much more than we of the present, were fond of 
discoursing. Any treatise on ethics must, in a sense, be an 
answer to these three questions. We, no more than our 
fathers, can escape answering them, although the form of 
our answer must inevitably differ in some respects from 

These three notions are then fundamental concepts of 
ethics, for the reason that they afford the most important 
points of view from which every human action and rela- 
tion may be valued ethically. But all three are subordinated 
to a still more fundamental and ultimate conception, namely 
that of the good, or value, itself. Hitherto we have devoted 
our attention chiefly to the study of this fundamental con- 



cept and to the development of a system of human values. 
In the development of that system we have, indeed, already 
seen how the three notions of rights, duties and virtues are 
immediately implied in the values themselves, and how the 
minimum of morality embodied in law recognizes rights and 
duties in connection with all the values. Our task is now to 
study the fields of rights and duties in detail, and with this 
we enter upon the field of practical ethics. 


Of these three concepts which is the more fundamental? 
Our choice here of one of them as the starting point, de- 
termines in a sense the entire character of the rest of our 
ethical thinking. Dutj^jor^ 

of formalism, we have seen, and must indeed be of any 
morality that makes the concepts of universal law and 
obedience to it central. In so far as the subjective reference 
of morality is concerned, this is doubtless the proper 
emphasis. The warning to think more of our duties than of 
our rights, is not only timely, but one that we need always 
to take to heart if our entire lives, as moral individuals, are 
not to have a wrong perspective. Again the pedagogical 
aspect of morals, which is uppermost in social control of 
whatever kind or type, requires emphasis on duty. But 
when we turn from the subjective to the objective, from the 
personal to the more social, aspect of morals, it is the con- 
ception and ideal of human rights that inevitably gets our 
first attention. It is scarcely possible to know what our 
duties are until we know what is due to others, what they 
may rightfully claim of us in short their rights. Even 
Kant, who put the primary emphasis on duty, laid down as 
the chief maxim of morality that we should always treat 
others as ends, never as means to ends, and in that was 
involved the idea of the primacy of rights. 

The central place of the concept of rights in a system of 


ethics appears from another point of view. Historically 
viewed, emphasis upon duties is characteristic of static and 
conservative periods ofsbciety. A feudal system, for in- 
st afice ,~wKetIier Eur^ean~oiF~Japanese , is, so to speak, 
organized about a system of duties, or loyalties; and duty 
is inevitably the central conception of such a system. 
Emphasis on rights, on the other 

perToSTof _change or reconstruction, of moral jdisco very, 
such as, for instance, that of the French Revolution. The 
magnification of duty presupposes a relatively stable and 
satisfactory social order, while the magnification of rights 
invariably signifies new insight into the nature and possi- 
bilities of man and a certain moral enthusiasm which results. 
Such changes in emphasis are constant characteristics of 
the historical social process. The fact that the recent cen- 
turies of western European civilization have been in the 
main a "progressive" period, has inevitably made the prob- 
lem of human rights the center of political and ethical 

We may well understand, then, why it is that the shibbo- 
leth, "the rights of man," has always fired the imagination 
and enthusiasm of all generous souls. It is an ideal that has 
also called out the deepest loyalty and devotion. But like 
so many general notions of this type, it is a term easier to 
appreciate than to define. 

The chief difficulty arises through a confusion of the 
ethical and legal notions of right. When people say that 
they have a right to beauty, to be or to express themselves, 
there are hard-headed folk who have nothing but contempt 
for such "sentimental rot." When these same "sentimen- 
talists" go on to talk of the right to labor or even to a liv- 
ing, when they talk of the rights of the children to play or 
the rights of animals, the contempt of the hard-headed 


often passes into bitter opposition and hate. The reason for 
this serious divergence of opinion is that the two different 
kinds of people are thinking of two quite different notions 
of right. The hard-headed, practical people are thinking of 
legal right, of moral right as it has already been embodied 
in law. The more "idealistic" are thinking of right in an 
ideal ethical sense, namely of what ought to be in the 
sense of bringing about the conditions necessary for the 
greatest human happiness or the highest self-realization, 
however the ethical end or good may be defined. 

This distinction between legal and ethical right may be 
made clearer by an illustration. There is none better than 
the famous Dred Scott decision of the United States Su- 
preme Court. Certain ethical "idealists," especially mem- 
bers of the Society of Friends and the abolitionists, thought 
that the negroes were human selves and ought, therefore, as 
selves, to be free. They put their belief into practice by 
helping, through what was called the "underground rail- 
road," escaping slaves to reach freedom by secretly passing 
them along from point to point in their journey north. The 
owner of Dred Scott, one of the fugitive slaves, made a legal 
issue of the matter, which was ultimately carried to the 
Supreme Court of the United States. The decision of that 
court was that Dred Scott should be returned, and the de- 
cision was based upon the principle that the fugitive slave 
was property, and that those who helped him to escape were 
alienating property without due process of law. In the exist- 
ing state of the law no other decision was possible, and it 
required a war, as it has often in the past required revolu- 
tions, to bring "legal" into harmony with "moral" right. 

This divergence, and ultimately conflict, of ethical and 
legal right, though real, should not be exaggerated. We 
have seen that, despite these divergences, there is a very 
real convergence and harmony. There is no single value of 
human life, from the lowest bodily to the highest spiritual 


value, that does not receive some recognition and protection 
in the law, in connection with which some right is not ac- 
knowledged. The divergence here, as in the case of diver- 
gences of moral judgments from the norms of common sense, 
have to do not with principles so much as with applications. 


Let us now consider the nature of ethical right. A man 
feels that he has a right to many things and many forms of 
activity: the right to life, to liberty of action and thought, 
to use the things he has acquired through his own labor, to 
the normal enjoyment of his powers and capacities. 

First of all, then, we feel that we have a right. This feel- 
ing is shown primarily, in the violent resentment which any 
infringement of a man's rights, any inhibition of his free 
existence and activity, arouses. It is, in the first instance, 
the feeling of his own self-hood and reflects the funda- 
mental drive to self-affirmation. But there is another aspect 
that must not be overlooked. It also expresses itself in the 
form of a positive assertion of the principle of right for its 
own sake. In asserting his rights, a man frequently insists 
that it is not the value of the thing, but the principle that 
is at stake. Is thy servant a dog, to be treated thus? You 
would treat a horse better than me, a human being! The 
workman protests against labor being treated as a mere 
commodity, to be bought and sold, against the speeding up 
process in industry that reduces man to a mere machine. 1 

It is a mistake, therefore, to look upon the insistence 
upon a right as mere egoism or self-assertion. The sincere 
expression of a human right is always in the name of an 
ideal of humanity, of personality, of an over-individual 

1 The violent resentment, in some quarters, against the prohibition laws is 
a case in point. In many instances it has, doubtless, a purely personal and 
egoistic flavor, but in many also it is clearly an honest expression of this 
more universal quality. 


good. It implies normally, as in the cases cited, a protest 
against treating man as a means rather than as an end, 
against the application of the merely mechanical or organic 
categories to man. In fact, far from being an expression of 
egoism, the assertion of right, when its implications are 
examined and understood, is fundamentally an assertion of 
the social nature of man. 

Human right, in the sense here described and analyzed, 
is "natural," axiomatic, self-evident, not needing any proof. 
The reason for this is that it is simply another way of stat- 
ing the fundamental principle of ethics and ethical value. 
To say that the ethical end is self-realization is to say in 
the same breath that ethically we have a right to the means 
of self-realization. As Hocffding has said, "just as by the 
inherent logic of action our world of values becomes a 
world of duties, so by a similar logic a world of values be- 
comes a world of rights." That this is so, and also the degree 
to which the fact is recognized, even by law and by the 
conception of legal right, we have already seen in the pre- 
ceding chapter. 

Without further preamble we may proceed then to a 
definition of ethical right. A moral right is a clajmjmplicit 
in and deducible from the moral end ot maiTas a member 

of society^ Or more briefly still, we have a right to the 
indispensable conditions of the moral life, to the values 
that are implied in total self-realization always remember- 
ing that the moral life is a life of a person, and of a person 
whose nature is such that his own good or value cannot be 
divorced from the goods or values of society. Bosanquet 
has stated the matter in this form: "We have a right to the 
means that are necessary to the development of our lives in 
the direction of the highest good of the community of which 
we are a part." 1 

1 B. Bosanquet, The Philosophical Theory of the State. 



In view of the nature of rights as now defined and de- 
scribed, it is clear that a table of rights is in principle iden- 
tical with a table of human values, and that the same 
principles that determine the higher and lower values also 
determine the relative importance and significance of human 
rights. That this is to a degree at least true we have seen 
in our discussion of the preceding chapter. We shall not 
develop this aspect of the question further at the present 
time, but shall rather use another principle of classification 
which will serve still better to bring out the relation of 
ethical to legal right and in general of law to ethics. 

From this point of view, rights are quite generally divided 
into three classes: (i) Natural or Moral Rights; (2) Civil 
Rights; (3) Political Rights. Under the head of natural 
rights the attempt is made to group all ^se^claimsjwhich. 
the individual Ts'TieTd lojiavejb^virtue of his nature_as a 
mofaTTjeln^Unde of civil rights are^groi^e(L^ll, 

tEose^cTalms Which an jndividual is held to have by virtue 
of hisjnemjejship in a_civil society. Finally, political rights 
include all those further claims which an individual may 
make By vir~tui^oTIiis membership in^ a/State or political 

As regards the objects of moral or natural right, it is 
usual to name three fundamental kinds: the right to life,^ 
thejright tojiberty and the right to property^ This division 
appears in the three fundamental verbs, to be, to do, and 
to have. These are sometimes called physical rights, to 
which are then added certain rights to mental activity, uch 
as freedom of thought and of affection, freedom of educa- 
tion and of 

The f undamentaJLciviL .rights- -are -chiefly: -two :. .freedom 
ol contract and^ the right to use the courts^to sue and be 
sued. To these should be adde3 the righTof^ free assembly," 


and to form voluntary associations for the furthering of 
individual and group ends. The right of free contract is 
widely inclusive, embracing the right freely to contract 
one's labor, to enter into partnerships, and, from the social 
and legal point of view, the contract of marriage. The right 
to form voluntary associations is almost equally wide reach- 
ing, including among other things, as now established by 
law, the right of labor to associate or form unions in fur- 
therance of its ends. Civil rights of the sort described are 
zealously guarded. Civil liberty leagues are constantly on 
the watch to prevent their violation and free legal service 
is afforded to those whose civil rights are put in jeopardy. 

The fundamental political rights, at least in modern 
democracies, are the right to vote and to hold office. Moral 
and civil rights may be accorded individuals when political 
rights are still denied. Until recently a large part of the 
adult populations of the world, namely the women, were 
in this position. As human beings, they were accorded the 
rights to life, liberty and the acquisition and protection of 
property, together with the rights to mental activity already 
described. As citizens, they were accorded rights of contract 
and voluntary association. But political rights were denied, 
chiefly on the grounds that they were incapable of discharg- 
ing the specific political duty of bearing arms in defense 
of the State. For reasons into which we need not go here, 
these political rights have also become practically universal 
since the World War. 

In the present connection we shall consider only the 
fundamental moral rights. Not that the others are not ethi- 
cal they are essentially so and would have no meaning 
otherwise but rather because they get their meaning from 
the moral rights which they presuppose. They may be 
conceived of as extensions of the fundamental moral rights. 
Civil rights are such extensions in the sense that they afford 
protection to the moral or natural rights. Political rights 


are instruments or devices for securing conditions favorable 
to the exercise of the moral rights. In the words of Dewey 
and Tufts, they "express an individual's power and obliga- 
tion to make effective all his other capacities by fixing the 
social conditions of their exercise/' l 


Human right, we have said, is, in a sense, natural, axio^. 
mafic^seU^evident, not_needJng any proof Snr.h expressions 
as these have uniformly been connected with theories of 
morals quite opposed to that which we have been develop- 
ing in the preceding chapters. The ideas for which these 
expressions stand have ordinarily been bound up with for- 
malistic and intuitionist theories of the good and with in- 
dividualistic theories of the self, which we found it necessary 
to criticize. Yet there is a sense in which these old expres- 
sions contain an important element of truth. Our first task, 
therefore, is to examine critically the doctrine of "natural 
rights" in its formalistic and intuitionist form. 

The formalistic or intuitionist view is well expressed in 
the Virginia Bill of Rights. "All men," we are told, "are 
by nature equally free and independent and have certain 
inherent rights of which, when they enter into a state of 
society, they cannot by any compact, deprive or divest their 
posterity, namely the enjoyments of life and liberty, and 
the means of acquiring and possessing property and pursu- 
ing and obtaining happiness and safety." This doctrine of 
inherent right is sometimes called the "substantive theory 
of rights." Both its practical import and its theoretical sig- 
nificance were well illustrated by Miss Jane Addams' appeal 
to it in her protest in the Bollenger baby case. 

Our general position with regard to this doctrine has 
already been made clear in our criticism of formalistic 

1 Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, p. 474. 


ethics and in our conception of the relation of the individual 
to society. But a further consideration of the doctrine is 
necessary if we are to get an adequate notion of the nature 
of ethical right. 

The discussion turns upon the expressions, "have by 
nature" and "certain inherent rights." Unfortunately both 
terms are highly ambiguous. "By nature" may mean in- 
born or innate in the sense of existing in some way in the 
individual prior to his entrance into a state of society, or 
as abstracted from the social whole o\ which he is a part. 
In this sense the notion is, of course, wholly untrue. It is 
untrue historically for two reasons that are now entirely 
clear. Innateness is a biological concept, and the sciences 
of biology and psychology are both agreed that the only 
things that are inborn in this sense are a very limited num- 
ber of primitive organic drives. The non-transmissibilit} 
of acquired characters was appealed to as showing the im- 
possibility of explaining the origin and development oi 
moral sentiments, and it is applicable a fortiori here. Again 
history makes it clear that Human rights til?. prqm'rpH 
There is not a single right, even the fundamental right tc 
life itself, which has not been worked out in the blood anc 
sweat of the centuries. The doctrine of innate right in this 
sense belongs to an unhistorical conception of society "ffial 
is "& iEing of the past. 

But "by nature" may have another meaning. It may 
have reference to the ideal nature of man. It may simply 
be a way of expressing the fact that these rights spring 
logically, or better teleologically, out of the ideal nature 
of man, or his ethical end; in other words that from a sysi 
tern of human values follows necessarily a system of Jiuman 
rights. IrTlhls sense the doctrine oFliatural right has an 
intelligible meaning and is essentially sound. "Man only 
partly is, and wholly hopes to be." His nature is~~~as much 


determined by his "ideal" as by his "actual" self. A claim 
implicit in, and deducible from, the moral end of man is as 
much a part of his nature as is a biological instinct or 
tendency. Properly understood then, the idea of rights that 
are "by nature" embodies significant truth. 

The second ambiguity in this doctrine is connected with 
the notion of inherent, found in the expression "certain in- 
herent rights." The philosophical notion underlying this is 
that the individual man is a substantial entity and that 
rights inhere in him as qualities inhere in an object or 
thing. Just as gold is said to be a substance in which the 
qualities_ofj^ellow, malleability, and a certain specific grav- 
ity inhere, so the individual man js an entity injjvjiich certain 
rights~similarly inhere as attributes. 

TEls "common sense" notion *of substance and attribute 
is, as we have seen in an earlier connection, a very old part 
of the intellectual furniture of man. Used first in 'connec- 
tion with physical things, it is only natural that it should 
persist when we are dealing with mental and moral things. 
It was, in fact, owing to this transference that formalism 
in one of its most ancient and most persistent forms arose 
in ethics. We have also seen, not only that this analogical 
transference was unfortunate, but also that even in the 
physical world we no longer think of the qualities of things 
as inherent, but as functional relations. The yellow of the 
gold is a function of the refraction of light by the texture 
of the material, its specific gravity a function of the relation 
of the mass of the gold to the mass of the liquid in which 
the gold is placed. In short, the notion of inherence has 
given place to that of function. A similar change has taken 
place in our conceptions of human rights. They are no 
longer thought of as attributes or qualities inhering in in- 
dividuals conceived apart from their social relations, but 
rather as claims or expectations growing out of these rela- 
tions. The rights of men express, then, the legitimate ex- 


pectations growing out of the functional relations of the 
individual to the social whole. 


The general trend in the philosophy of rights is, accord- 
ingly, towards a functional rather than a substantive theory. 
But this fact should not blind us to the element of truth 
that still belongs to the conception of rights as "natural." 
These rights are not natural in the sense that they are in- 
born or belong to man as a part of physical nature. But, 
as claims implicit in and deducible from the moral end of 
man, they are part of his very nature as a moral being. As 
such, they may be said, by a figure of speech, to inhere 
in him as a moral being. Historically viewed^ there is not 
a single right^even Ihe most fundamental right to life itself, 
tHSt fiasnot been acquired. No right belongs to man "prior 
to "Bis entrance into a state of society," because actually 
tlfere never was a time when man was~~not in a state of 
soci^Iy7~They are inalienable, not because they have an 
exfstence apart from society (for they have no historical 
actuality except as they are acknowledged), but rather 
because they are indispensable conditions of self-realization 
and are thus inseparable from the conception of the moral 

This situation has often been expressed by saying that 
the doctrine of natural rights is a "logical" rather than a 
historical theory. We may express the same truth by calling 
it a normative rather than a descriptive theory. The theory 
of natural rights is a doctrine of norms. 


Closely connected with the development of functional 
theories of rights, there has inevitably been a drift towards 
social rather than individualistic, and towards relative rather 


than absolute, conceptions of rights. When a right ceases 
to be thought of as inherent in an individual person, but 
rather as somehow implicated in the ideal of humanity, the 
more social and universal aspect of the problem becomes 
more and more emphasized. Similarly, when a right is seen 
to be historically developed and conditioned, it is inevitable 
that it should be thought of as relative, not only to the 
historical institutions with which it is connected, but also 
relative in the sense that it is not absolute. 

The doctrine of natural rights was associated, in modern 
thought at least, with an intense individualism, which ex- 
pressed itself in all fields of economics, morals and law. It 
was only natural that, as the Virginia Bill of Rights ex- 
pressed it, such rights should have been conceived as ex- 
isting "prior to man's entrance into a state of society. " 
Thus the right of acquiring and possessing property, of 
which we shall have more to say in Chapter XII, was sup- 
posed to arise directly out of the fact that the individual 
"mixed his labor" with some purely material object, i.e., 
put some effort into the acquiring of it and thus made it 
his own. The right to the object resided then in the indi- 
vidual quite independent of any relation which the indi- 
vidual in question might have to others. 

The individualistic theory of rights has an appearance of 
truth that is more than specious. In the first place, a right 
is, for the most part, individual in residence, that is the 
right is the right oj some individual. It is necessary, how- 
ever, to say, for the most part, and this limitation is itself 
of considerable significance in attempting to understand 
the nature of right. We constantly speak of such things as 
the rights of the unborn, of posterity, and such expressions 
have an intelligible meaning. We can scarcely mean, how- 
ever, that such right or claim is exercised by any specific 
individuals, for such are not yet in existence. If, however, 


this may be in doubt, we may point to the notion of the 
rights of labor as a class, of nations, as in the expression 
"the rights of small nations." 

Even from the standpoint of locus or residence of a 
right, rights are not exclusively individual. When, however, 
we look at them from the standpoint of their origin and 
function, their individual character immediately disappears. 
They are seen to be "social in origin and import." 

In the matter of origins, anthropology leaves us in no 
doubt. The further back we go into the beginnings of so- 
ciety, the more we find that whatever vague feelings of 
ctalmsjrTightslndividuals may have, they are always feel- 
irigswhich they have by virtue of their membership in clans 
or tribes. These claims are sanctioned by custom, and in 
every case reflect the structure of the institutions in con- 
nection with which they are functional. A certain vague 
"right to subsistence" appears for instance to be generally 
characteristic of primitive peoples, but that claim seems 
also to be acknowledged as springing out of the individual's 
membership in the tribe rather than as arising out of his 
nature as an individual. In the most primitive peoples 
there is always some form of the family, some form of limi- 
tation and control of sex relationships. Out of these forms, 
whether maternal or paternal, invariably arise certain vague 
rights, however varied they may be. But here, again, these 
rights or claims are always felt as arising out of the mem- 
bership of the individual in the clan or tribe, and not as 
in any sense inherent in the individual as such. The social 
import of primitive rights is not less clear than their social 
origin. It would doubtless be going too far to say that the 
anthropologist can show an element of survival value at- 
taching to every claim acknowledged by a social group, 
but, speaking generally, it is entirely clear that the more or 
less consciously recognized claims of a member of a horde 


or tribe are directly related to the welfare of the whole. 

The social nature of rights is clear when we view them 
from the standpoint of their origin and import in primi- 
tive peoples. It becomes even clearer when we consider the 
historical development of right. Even the fundamental 
rights^to life, liberty and propertyare the result of his- 
torical development. T^one is originaLJbut rather the result 
praslow growth oFa consciousness, on the part of society, 
of their Jmport for the social life^as a whole. It is, however, 
when we turn our attention to the civil and political rights, 
which, as we have seen, are in essence but extensions of 
the moral rights, that the social character of right becomes 
most evident. Rights such as those of free contract, free- 
dom of speech and ot education, although still Tncnyuiual' 
in residence, are explicitly social in import, as well as in 
origin It is true that treedom to enter into relations with 
others through contract, freedom to express one's thought 
in speech, and the opportunity to acquire education, are 
increasingly seen to be implicit in and deducible from the 
ideal of man, but it is also true that more and more these 
rights are seen to be the indispensable conditions of a 
progressive social life. Undue infringment upon these rights 
by a modern state does violence indeed to individual self- 
hood, but even more does it defeat the state's own ends in 
the long run. 

In the light of these considerations, we may now recast 
our definition of rights, in order to bring out their social 
basis. We have, we have seen, a right to the means that 
are necessary for the development of our lives in the direc- 
tion of the highest good. But this is only what has been 
called subjective right. In order that it may become objec- 
tive right, and related to the notion of right as used in law, 
it must be defined from another aspect. For this purpose 
we may again take another definition of Bosanquet: "Rights 
are claims recognized by society acting as ultimate author- 

ity to the maintenence of conditions favorable to the best 


A natural result of this change from a substantive to a 
functional, and from an individual to a social conception of 
rights, is the further notion that rights are relative and not 

This conception of the relativity of rights must be ex- 
amined with great care because of the consequences, both 
theoretical and practical, that flow from it. There are two 
aspects to this relativity which we may describe as histori- 
cal and functional. 

The historical relativity of rights has reference to the 
changes in our notions of rights corresponding to the hi- 
torical development of society. Even the so-called natural 
rights show this relativity. An absolute right to life is a 
meaningless conception for primitive peoples, among whom 
exposure of children, putting to death of the old and de- 
crepit, and the right of life and death over wives and chil- 
dren are often, not merely parts of the mores, but even 
solemn duties. No one subject to these limitations of the 
right to life would think of questioning the salutary and 
righteous character of these customs. In the case of other 
rights, not usually called natural, such as marital rights, 
this historical relativity is even more in evidence. The claim 
of a modern man or woman to the affection of his partner, 
or respect for KigoFher personality, "would simply not be 
understoodTy'primitive people, while the rights of women 
under a matriarchal form are widely different from those 
under a patriarchal form. 

The functional relativity of rights has reference to the 
way in which they are conditioned by the functional ends 

1 Ibid. p. 1 88. 


of the institutions in connection with which the rights ap- 
pear. Rights are never absolute and unconditional. The 
conditional character of civil and political rights is gen- 
erally recognized. The right to free contract, for instance, 
is limited and conditioned at certain very vital points and 
is held subject to public policy and the common weal. A 
man has, in general, the right to enter into business con- 
tracts, but if he contracts with a bootlegger to furnish him 
with capital for his enterprises, he cannot call upon the 
law to maintain any rights growing out of the contract, for 
the said contract, being against law and public policy, is 
ab mitio null and void. A man may enter into contract of 
marriage with a woman. But if that contract contains the 
provision that the marriage shall not be consummated, there 
are no rights, on the part of either party to the contract, 
that can be maintained. Courts of law have already held 
that such a contract is null and void, for the reason that it 
contradicts the very intention of the institution in connec- 
tion with which the contract is made, and is contrary to 
public policy. In other words, rights are not only social 
in origin and jmport r but are also relative to and__Qndj- 
tioned bv the ends or purposes of the institutions in con- 

nection with which the rights are exercised. 

* __. 


The functional and social theory is without question the 
only one consonant with a progressive and liberal inter- 
pretation of law and with the growth of the institutional 
life of man. It is also clear that such a conception involves 
the notion of the relativity of rights in the two senses de- 
scribed. This relativity may go far indeed extending to 
the very right to life itself, as we have seen in the discus- 
sion of certain cases in Chapter II. The question inevitably 
arises as to whether there is any limitation to this principle 


of relativity and if so, where the limitation is to be found. 
Are there no absolute rights in any sense? 

Justice Holmes has raised this question in an interesting 
article in the Harvard Law Review. He writes: "As an 
arbitrary fact, people wish to live and we say with varying 
degrees of certainty that they can do so only on certain 
conditions. But to say this is not to assert a hard and fast 
duty or right pre-existing. It simply means that if you don't 
live in such and such a way you will have to suffer the 
consequences/' He cites the fact that society has no scruples 
in sacrificing the lives of its members in time of war and 
he recalls a very tender-hearted judge being of the opinion 
that closing a hatch to stop a fire and the destruction of a 
cargo was justified, even if it were known that doing so 
would stifle a man. 

I have no intention of entering into a dispute with an 
authority such as Justice Holmes on the question of the 
philosophy of law. We may well admit that the right to 
life does not assert a pre-existing duty or right. But surely 
it asserts more than the mere arbitrary fact that people 
wish to live. It recognizes in that claim more than a wish; 
rather an ideal or norm that has quite another kind of 
reality than the merely psychological fact of desire. As to 
the conditions under which the scruples against sacrificing 
life may be violated that also is a difficult question. Yet 
surely society is finding itself more and more beset with 
scruples in sacrificing its members in time of war; and the 
judge, however tender-hearted, who actually justified the 
sacrifice of a life to save a cargo would find very few who 
would see in that decision a reflection of the more enlight- 
ened conscience of the time. The point is this. Rights are 
indeed relative, both historically ajid functionally, and law, 
wHicH" is aTiistorical product, reflects that relativity. At 
the same time, these rights thus historically developed, are 
more and more seen to be implied in and deducible from 


the moral ideal of man. To the extent that this is realized, 
they become more than historical and tend to achieve an 
absolute character. The philosophy of "natural riffht" is_ji 
doctrine of norms, not a description^QJ^historical fact. 


From the nature of human rights, as now presented, it 
is evident that specific answers to the question, what ought 
I or any other individual to have, can be found only in 
connection with the specific human institutions and the stage 
of the development of those institutions in history. In later 
chapters we shall examine the rights, as well as the duties, 
connected with two of the more important of the human 
and ethical institutions of man namely the Family and 
Private Property. In the present connection it will be of 
advantage to illustrate these general principles of right by 
some concrete problem from the field of modern social and 
ethical discussion. We might choose for our study any one 
of a number of such problems, for instance the questions 
involved in such expressions as woman's rights, the rights 
of children, etc. I shall choose rather one much discussed 
in the last decades, namely the Rights of Labor. 

It is first of all worthy of note that there is no reference 
to any right to labor or rights of labor in the "bills of 
rights" that grew out of the ethical and political thinking 
of the eighteenth century. This fact is, in itself, an indi- 
cation of the historical and functional relativity of rights, 
in that the question of such rights had not yet arisen. It 
arose only when changes in the industrial life and institu- 
tions of men made unemployment a real problem. As the 
result of the industrial revolution, with the consequent 
separation of the individual worker from the instruments 
or tools of production, the concentration of capital with 
its resulting increased power of the employer to determine 
both the opportunity to labor and the conditions under 


which labor should be performed, there resulted a pre- 
carious condition of labor that immediately raised the whole 
question of its legitimate claims or rights. 

The right to labor, as such, seems to be one of those 
claims, growing out of the ethical end itself, which is grad- 
ually being recognized by society, "acting as ultimate au- 
thority to the maintainence of conditions favorable to the 
best life." This recognition has not reached the stage of 
general legal acknowledgment, but the growing acceptance, 
on the part of society, of obligations to prevent wide-spread 
unemployment, has conferred upon this claim a quasi-polit- 
ical sanction. 

The immediate causes of this change are doubtless, as 
is ordinarily the case, the actual pressure of economic con- 
ditions arising from a highly organized industry, and greatly 
accentuated since the war. It is a condition and not a theory 
that faces the modern State. On the other hand, it can 
hardly be denied that this gradual acceptance of the claims 
of labor has been accompanied, if not actually determined, 
by a process cf reflection of a distinctly ethical character. 
It is increasingly felt that the right to life itself is an empty 
form if it does not include the right to the opportunity to 
the labor necessary to maintain life. 

The "right to labor" is embodied in few political instru- 
ments as yet, 1 But certain principles underlying the rights 
of labor have been thus specifically acknowledged. The 
proposition that "labor shall not be considered as a com- 
modity" is an article in the part of the Covenant of the 
League of Nations devoted to labor, and is also embodied in 
the Clayton Act (1914) which exempted associations of 

1 It is one of the pillars of a "Report on Reconstruction by the Sub-Com- 
mittee of the British Labor Party," issued in 1918 under the title Labor and 
the New Social Order, and has been part of the platform of the Labor Party 
ever since. This report, which was published by the New Republic as a sup- 
plement, is worthy of study by the student from the ethical as well as the 
political point of view. 


labor from the application of the Sherman Anti-Trust law. 
The significance of the recognition of this principle is two- 
fold. It is, in the first place, the denial of the principle of 
an earlier economics, that labor shall be viewed merely 
mechanically, or solely as an instrument of production, and, 
secondly, also the denial of the principle that the "iron law 
of wages/' "supply and demand/' should alone determine 

The rights of labor, as distinguished from the right to 
labor, is a term covering a vague, as yet undefined, field of 
ethical rather than legal claims. They include claims to a 
fair or just wage, to proper hours of labor, to protection 
of life and health in the prosecution of labor, and to various 
forms of compensation and insurance which may be lumped 
under the term "security." Many of these claims have been 
socially acknowledged by legal enactment. All illustrate 
the relative and functional character of rights. We shall 
consider here only one of these claims, namely the right to 
a fair or just wage. The problem may be put in this way: 
What constitutes the right of labor in the matter of wage, 
and how is that right determined? 

The nature of the problem here involved is brought out 
clearly in the report of a dispute over wages in connection 
with a strike in the Chicago Stock Yards, in 1903, as re- 
ported in a daily newspaper of that time. 1 

"The cause of the first strike was wages. More partic- 
ularly it was the wages of unskilled laborers. Under the 
agreement of last year, the packers had been paying !&*/> 
cents an hour. Meanwhile the conditions of the labor market 
had changed. Hundreds of men were presenting themselves 
every morning to request an opportunity of working for 
1 6 or even 15 cents an hour. The packers felt that it was 

1 Quoted from B. H. Bode, An Outline of Logic, pp. 08, 99, in which it is 
used as an illustration of reasoning. 


unfair to require them to pay more than the law of supply 
and demand indicated. 

"The argument offered by the union ignored the law 
of supply and demand. It based itself on living conditions. 
The average number of working hours provided for un- 
skilled laborers during an average week was said to be 
about forty. Forty hours at i& l /> cents make $7.40. No 
man, said the union, could live decently on less than $7.40. 
And the packers could pay $7.40 without seriously reducing 
their dividends." 

It is evident that in the two preceding arguments each 
side is making an assumption. The assumption of the packers 
is that wages, as determined by supply and demand, are 
proper wages. The assumption of the union is that wages, 
as determined by living conditions, are proper wages. The 
actual practical settlement of a dispute of this nature can, 
of course, be reached only by compromise in which a cer- 
tain element of truth or right is recognized in both claims. 
The important point for our consideration lies elsewhere: 
it has to do with the ethical question of what determines 
a just claim or right in the matter of wages. 

It is important to note first, that both sides recognize 
that rights-4ftJie matter of wq,gpq nrp 

tive, not absolute. There is no "right wage" for a certain 
job. If supply and demand are to determine wages, then 
the worker has a right to anything he can get. Even a 
fabulous wage is a just wage, although it might be out of 
all proportion to the labor given. On the other hand, if the 
determining principle is living conditions, then rights in 
the matter of wages are again functional and relative, and 
no wage, whatever the conditions of the industry or the 
market, is a just wage which does not afford a "decent 

Which, then, of these two opposing principles is norma- 
tive in determining the just claims of labor? There seems 


to be scarcely any question that the principle of the living 
wage constitutes the norm in the light of which actual con- 
ditions are to be judged, if we judge ethically at all, and 
thus determines the direction or the ideal towards which 
practice should work. The extent to which such a norm 
may become operative at any time or place in society is, 
of course, determined by actual economic conditions. The 
application of such a norm in a particular industry, or in- 
deed in industrial life as a whole, is conditioned by tech- 
nical knowledge which only the industrial and economic 
expert possesses. In a general way it may be said, however, 
that the opinion is growing that modern production is mak- 
ing the principle more and more possible economically, 
some economists holding that we need no longer talk of a 
mere "living wage/' but, without undue idealism, of a "cul- 
tural wage," namely of a wage that will make possible not 
only the indispensable conditions of life, but also of the 
good life, in the sense of the cultural conditions necessary for 
self-realization. In any case, the wide-reaching changes tak- 
ing place in connection with the whole question of a just 
wage, afford an admirable illustration of the conception 
of human rights here developed. 


The practical consequences which follow from the change 
to a functional and relative conception of rights have been 
of incalculable importance. Here, as elsewhere, the truth 
holds good that practically the most important thing about 
a man is whaFhe Ibelieves. Our theoretical attitude towards 
human rights affects our conduct in numerous ways. 

In the first place, it must be clear that in the main a sub- 
stantive theory tends to conservatism and a functional theory 
to a progressive attitude. One who believes that there are 
a few elemental rights, innate and inalienable, will be likely 
to insist upon the preservation of these rights and to set 


his face against any infringement of them. This undoubtedly 
has its good side, for as preservation is the first law of life, 
so conservation is the first law of the moral and social life. 
There can be no true progress without conservation of the 
values already achieved. 

But this view has the defects of its qualities. The ten- 
dency of such a conception is to be sceptical of the achieve- 
ment of new rights, and to be lukewarm towards all those 
social movements which aim towards the ideal of including 
among the ethical claims or rights all the indispensable con- 
ditions of self-realization. The functional theory, on the 
other hand, while losing something of the conservative value 
of the substantive, is open-minded towards the question of 
new rights. It sees that new occasions may not only teach 
new duties, but may also compel the acknowledgment of new 
rights. Changes in industrial conditions may generate new 
claims which first the public conscience, and then the law 
itself, may have to acknowledge. Development of the indi- 
vidual and of society may make it necessary to~accord to the 
individual such tliings~as education and recreation, not only 
as desirable but as aTmatter of right. 



* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chaps. XX, XXI. 

* J. A.. Leighton, The Individual and the Social Order, Chaps. 


W. Wundt, Ethics, Vol. II, (The Principles of Morality), 
Chap. IV. 

* Warner Fite, Individualism. 

D. G. Ritchie, Natural Rights, Chaps. V-VIL 
J. H. Wigmore, Editor, Rational Basis of Legal Institutions, 
Parts I and V. 


T. H. Green, Principles of Political Obligation. 
B. Bosanquet, The Philosophical Theory of the State. 
Roscoe Pound, The Spirit of the Common Law; Introduction to 
The Philosophy of Law. 


J. Kohler, The Philosophy of Law. 
F. Berolzheimer, The World's Legal Philosophies. 
B. N. Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process. 
O. W. Holmes, Collected Legal Papers. 
* W. E. Hocking, Man and The State. 
Hegel, Philosophy of Right, (trans, by S. W. Dyde). 



The shibboleth, "the rights of man," has always fired 
the imagination and enthusiasm of all generous souls. Sim- 
ilarly the hunger and thirst after justice is probably one 
of the deepest of all human needs. When the excited social- 
ist cries, "we want justice, not charity/' he may have a 
faulty notion of what justice is, but in his demand for jus- 
tice, rather than for charity, he is expressing an imperious 
need of the human soul which will not be stilled as long 
as the moral struggle of the human race endures. 

The notion of justice is not an independent concept in 
ethics, like those of right, duty and virtue; it is secondary, 
in that it presupposes the notion of rights. Justice is often 
defined as^giving p. wry- m. in hip, dnp What is due a man, 
however, is what he has a claim or right to. In a sense, 
therefore, our discussion of justice is merely a continua- 
tion of our discussion of rights. There are, however, certain 
points which require independent study, among others the 
further notion of desert. In what is due a man is included, 
not only the things to which he may lay claim by virtue of 
his being a man, but also what he deserves to have as an 
individual, however we may conceive that desert ultimately 
to be determined. 

The first form in which the demand for justice expresses 
itself is in the feelings of resentment or revenge. The violent 
resentment which the infringement of any right, or the 
denial of any legitimate expectation arouses, expresses it- 
self in the sense of injustice. The impulsive basis of justice 



is doubtless to be found in this reaction of resentment 
of the family, the group, or the tribe against an individual 
or another group. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth/' 
a life for a life, is not only the law of the jungle, but the 
law of all primitive types of life. Bacon describes this as 
"wild justice," and Durkheim is probably right when he 
says that primitive people have only criminal justice and 
that civil and ethical justice are of later growth. 

This form of justice has been called retributive to dis- 
tinguish it from distributive, or that form of justice which 
is concerned with the distribution of the goods of life. Retrib- 
utive justice is the criminal justice of which Durkheim 
speaks but which, in contrast to the wild justice of the 
primitive, has undergone that process of cultivation which 
may be described as the development of law. Law has taken 
justice out of the hands of the individual or group and 
embodied it in institutions. The law of "blood revenge", 
as it is called, which still exists in some of the southern 
mountains of our own country has gradually been super- 
seded by the criminal justice of the courts. 1 


We must now seek a definition of justice which will cover 
both of these forms. As is often the case, the simplest 
definition is the best, as throwing most light upon the prim- 
itive feeling which a term embodies. Justice,^iccor^i]QgjLa 
Roman Law, is "giving every ong^Ju^jlug? 7 The feeling 
that underlies this expression is even better expressed in 
our modern slang, when we speak of a man "getting what 
is coming to him." In this expression are included several 
ideas which are inseparable from the notion of justice. 

1 This "wild justice" is uniformly associated with divine sanctions, and 
very often men's gods are as wild as themselves. It is a curious spectacle 
then when, as so often happens, human justice outgrows the* "divine," as 
it has been earlier conceived. The meaning of this will be considered '.later 
(Chapter XVIII). 


What is coming to one includes the idea of just retribu- 
tion, as when I say, "I have no kick to make, I got what 
was coming to me." But it also includes the other idea of 
just distribution, as when we feel that we did not get what 
was coming to us. Back of both notions, however, lies a 
further idea which is never lacking in the sense of justice, 
namely the idea of something that is coming, something 
somehow present in the nature of things in other words, 
the idea of a moral order. The expression, "giving everyone 
his due" makes clearer, however, the close relations of the 
notion of justice to that of rights. What is due a man is 
something he has a right to expect or claim, and from this 
point of view justice may be defined as the satisfaction of 
legitimate claims and expectations. 

Before leaving this question of definition let us note 
an element in the idea of justice which seems to be in- 
expungeable, and which will require our attention later. I 
will call it the feeling for moral symmetry. Moral asymmetry 
is painful to our ethical sense, as we can see in a thousand 
ways. If a man works hard and faithfully and cannot get 
enough to live on, we feel that something is wrong that 
there is "no justice in the world." If, on the other hand, 
a man is a loafer and a waster, and all the good things of 
life pour in upon him, we again feel that something is in- 
herently wrong. We are likely then, as did Emerson in his 
essay on Compensation, to look for compensatory features 
in both cases. We like to think that in some way desert 
and realization are correlative. 


The notion of legitimate claims brings us immediately to 
the important question of the relation of ethical to legal 
justice. Justice in the legal sense, as we have already seen, 
impjigs etriical Justice, just as legal rights ply ethical 
rights-^Legal justice," we found, "aims at realizmg""ffiOTal 


justice within its range and its strength consists largely in 
the feeling that this is so." What then, more specifically, 
is this moral justice which legal justice seeks to realize, 
and what is its exact relation to legal justice? 

We have repeatedly seen that the range of the latter is 
narrower and that this form of justice, like law in general, 
"lags behind morality." This "social lag," as it is called, 
is recognized not only by enlightened theory, but also by 
ordinary common sense. Such recognition is expressed even 
in our courts of justice by the formula of "the appeal to 
the higher law." 

This idea of a higher law, a law above civil statute, is 
in practice very ambiguous. It sometimes means an appeal 
to what is really lower to that "wild justice" of which 
we have spoken. It is practically impossible to get a jury 
to convict a man who avenges a wrongf to his wife or 
daughter, or a woman who takes the law into her own 
hands when she has been "deceived." On the other hand, 
the appeal to the higher law often means an appeal to some 
principle of justice not yet embodied in law. Such would 
be the appeal of those who violated the law of their land 
in helping Dred Scott or other negro slaves to escape. In 
any case appeals of both kind express the feeling of the 
divergence between ethical and legal justice and of the 
necessity that legal justice should embody, within its range, 
the ideals of ethical justice. At the present moment this 
sense of divergence is felt, whether rightly or wrongly, by 
many in connection with the prohibition laws. A man who 
has violated these laws, although criminal, is often felt 
to be not immoral, to have not displayed moral turpitude. 
In general, this distinction is clearly recognized, even in law 
itself. Thus it is quite generally recognized that what are 
called political offenses need not necessarily involve moral 
turpitude, and provision is made in our own immigration 
laws to cover iust such cases. 



We shall not go far wrong then, if we make use of the 
terms, "conservative" and "ideal" justice, to distinguish 
between legal and ethical justice. The problem of ethics 
becomes then to determine the meaning and content of this 
ideal justice in other words, to develop a working theory 
of justice which will at the same time meet most fully the 
demands of the moral sense and make the most satisfactory 
basis for the solution of the practical problems of the 
economic and social order. But first let us see this con- 
ception of ideal justice at work in the minds of men. 

The appeal to this higher law, to "the ideal of progressive 
justice/' of which Sidgwick speaks, 1 is always made when- 
ever there is a widespread feeling that the legitimate claims 
of humanity are in some way in conflict with existent law 
and law protected institutions. In our own national life it 
has uniformly come to the fore in the various labor struggles, 
such as the riots at Homestead, Hazleton, and Pittsburgh. 
Any one of these might be taken to illustrate our point, but 
they are so recent, and still involve so seriously the passions 
and prejudices of men, that I shall choose one which in- 
volves the same problems, but which the lapse of time has 
placed in such perspective that we may now view it quite 
objectively. It is an episode in early California history 
which Josiah Royce has described and interpreted in an 
essay in his Studies in Good and Evil. 

The episode in question is the so-called "Squatter Riot" 
of 1850 in Sacramento. Captain Augustus Sutter, a famous 
Swiss pioneer, held eleven leagues of land under a grant 
from the former Spanish governor, Alvarado. By the treaty 
of 1848, between Mexico and the United States, the general 
validity of all such rights was guaranteed, but the precise 

1 In his Methods of Ethics, to which further reference will be made 


definition of individual rights was often doubtful. Captain 
Sutter, whose claim was by no means entirely clear, him- 
self made no use of the land, but insisted on keeping others 
off it. With the "gold rush' 7 of those years, and following 
the prevailing custom of squatter right, a large part of flie 
land at that time being free, squatters began to occupy it 
and clashes with the local authorities immediately took 

The entire episode is a fascinating study of the customs 
and ideas of that time, and issued in a victory for order and 
vested right, but it is not the details of the affair that in- 
terest us here. It is rather the ideal or conception of justice 
to which the squatters appealed. A certain Doctor Robin- 
son, a New England man of college training, constituted 
himself the leader of the squatters' cause, and against the 
merely legal notion of justice, he set the "higher law" of 
ethical justice, expressing the opinion that the settlers were 
merely maintaining the rights which "Country, Nature and 
God" had given them. 

On the question itself of the right or wrong of the 
action of the squatters we may hold divergent opinions, 
for circumstances entered into the situation which prevented 
it from being the clear moral issue that those on both sides 
of the conflict thought it to be. There is no doubt of Royce's 
position in the matter. On the principle of the ancient 
maxim, that two wrongs do not make a right, Royce is 
quite clear that, for the squatters to take the law into their 
own hands, to violate laws which, however crudely and 
unsatisfactorily, embody the achieved values of mankind, 
is fraught with more evil than good. In any case, in this 
episode we have a perfect picture of the problem now before 


Three points emerge from our brief study of the preced- 
ing incident: (i) The presence in men's minds of this "ideal 


justice" and the appeal to "Nature, God and Country" to 
confirm it. (2) The^conflict of 

servativ^rTustice, and . . 

whiOT results r~( 3) The attempt, however unsuccessful, to 
give concrete content to this ideal. We shall now attempt 
to complete this task. In other words, we shall attempt to 
formulate an ethical theory of justice that shall be adequate 
to the interpretation of the facts of moral judgment, and 
which shall serve as guide in solving the practical problems 
of economic and social justice. 

The most notable modern analysis of the notion of jus- 
tice, at least in English, is that of Henry Sidgwick in his 
famous Methods of Ethics. We shall do well to allow him 
to help us in our task, in so far as we find his thinking 
valid. His problem is precisely ours, the determination of 
the concrete meaning and content of the notion of Ideal 

He starts out also with the distinction between legal and 
ethical justice, to the first of which he gives, as we have 
seen, the name of "conservative"; the latter he calls "ideal." 
The first is defined as "respect for normal expectations of 
men as embodied in law," the second as "the respect for 
rights as embodied in the ideal of social manhood." 


Legal justice recognizes that justice is giving every man 
his due, but the whole tendency of law is to give a very 
narrow range to the conception of rights, or what is due 
a man. Law is indeed concerned with the minimum of 
morality, with that minimum which is necessary for the 
persistence and health of society, and with that also that 
can be enforced. The tendency of law and of all those of 
the legalistic mind is to feel, therefore, that a man gets 
justice, all that he can claim as his due, when he is assured 


and protected in the enjoyment of a few fundamental 
"natural rights," and has equality before the law. Moreover, 
in the interpretation and application of the law the ten- 
dency on the part of jurists is to reduce the whole conception 
of right to that of freedom and protection of this freedom 
from unjustifiable interference. Thus legal justice tends to" 
be T)oth formalistic and individualistic in spirit. 

The present tendency of thought even of legal philos- 
ophy itself is away from this conception of justice and 
Sidgwick voices that tendency. Before considering the 
criticisms, it is important to realize that, while this notion 
of justice may not be adequate, it does not follow that it 
may not have an important element of truth within its own 
range. The conservative spirit of law makes it seem at times 
not only callous but also stupid. Law may seem to be blind 
to many human values, but those which it does see^-it-S^es 
very clearly and in the main holds on to with a grip of iron. 

The criticisms that Sidgwick makes on this theory are 
in principle the same as those which were made on formal- 
ism in general in Chapter III. It is formal, empty, and in- 
effective when applied to the concrete problems of the moral 
life. We may now see the point of these criticisms more 
clearly when applied specifically to the formalistic notion 
of justice. 

Sidgwick starts out by noting the fact that the whole 
tendency of the legalistic ideal is to reduce, or to carry 
back, all rights, moral, civic and political, to the one funda- 
mental notion of freedom and the protection of this right 
from interference. He then seeks to show how formal, 
empty and ineffective the mere abstract right to freedom is. 

He points out, first of all, the inevitable ambiguity in 
the notion of freedom, and the inevitable limitations of 
that right which are necessary if it is to be workable, limi- 
tations of such a character as to make it often but an empty 
word. Besides, and this is even more important, such free- 


dom is often purely jormal, in contrast to effective freedom. 
Thus, the right. t ?iv<ywit.h its; implied freedom from in- 
terference, means little if WP ranrmt fmH fh 

live. To assure a man that he has the sacred and blessed 
rigEt to life when he cannot find work to sustain that life, 
is to fill his belly with empty husks. To be effective, the 
right to life seems to imply more than mere formal assur- 
ance of that right. The same is true of the right of free 
contract, which to many of this way of thinking has 
seemed the very core of human liberties. The mere formal 
right freely to contract with an employer for the disposal 
of one's labor, has little meaning if one has no power to 
determine the conditions of the contract. If, for instance, 
as was customary in certain coal regions of this country 
at one time, no contract would be made with a miner unless 
he agreed to deal at the company store, occupy a company 
house, in some cases remain in the company stockades, and 
submit to other conditions of labor equally restricting and 
tyrannical, one might feel moral indignation, but no one 
could say that the right to freedom, in the formalistic or 
legalistic sense, was violated. The miner was jrce to work 
or not to work. Nobody compelled him to make such a 
contract. But his freedom was merelyjsrma^ because cir- 
cumstances required him to work unaSt such conditions or 
to starve. His freedom, though formally valid, was ineffec- 
tive, and therefore not real. ""Similar instances from other 
fields-of~tn3u3try could bFotFd to show the significance of 
this criticism. 


The largely formal character of the merely legalistic no- 
tion of justice, and of the moral theory of "natural right" 
which it presupposes, is generally recognized in the ethical 
and legal philosophy of the present day. But there is a still 
more fundamental difficulty in the theory of justice which 


we have been examining, and this difficulty is brought out 
by Sidgwick with great clearness. It is that such a theory 
makes no provision for one of the most important elements 
in ideal or ethical justice, namely the ideal of just distri- 
bution, or distributive justice. 

The formalistic notion of justice we have been consider- 
ing is concerned with distribution in a limited degree. Its 
ideal is the assurance to everyone of a few fundamental 
rights, a few of the indispensable conditions of the moral 
life. Moreover, in striving for impartiality, for equality be- 
fore the law, it seeks to distribute justly certain conditions 
of the good life. But the ideal of distributive justice in- 
cludes much more than this. It requires distribution of other 
things, other goods or values. The proble^i of foe distribu- 
tion of wealth, for instance, wealth being our general Jgrjoa 
for economic goods, or for those instrumental values bound 
up with the bodily life. 

The problem of distributive justice is for Sidgwick the 
crux of any ethical theory of justice. At this point the 
formalistic theory breaks down, as it does indeed in every 
other place in ethics. Sidgwick is a teleologist of the utili- 
tarian type and he seeks to develop a utilitarian theory of 
justice that will solve the problem of just distribution. Thus 
far the argument has been mainly critical and negative. The 
task now is to seek the positive principle of the higher or 
"ideal" justice, i 

Sidgwick turns first to "common sense," to the primitive 
springs of justice in the heart of man. The ^ most primitive, 
as we have seen, is the "wild justice" that expresses Ttself 
in resentment and retribution. Punitive justice is this re- 
sentment universalized and embodied in law. Side by side 
with this primitive resentment, Sidgwick finds another sen- 
timent equally original, namely gratitude, and with it the 
concept or idea of requiting desert. It is out of this, accord- 
ing to his analysis, that the entire principle of positive 


justice develops. Conceive this sentiment of gratitude uni- 
versalized, and we get thcnotion of distributive justice. In 

other," everywhere present in the hearts of normal indi- 
viduals, when given a social character, expresses itself in 
the demand for just distribution. 

It is doubtful whether this instinctive and emotional ac- 
count of the springs of distributive justice is adequate to 
the whole meaning and content of the notion. The feeling 
may indeed be as primitive as the feeling of resentment 
to which punitive or retributive justice is carried back, but 
it is doubtful whether either feeling exhausts the content 
of our notions of justice. To make justice, in either of its 
forms, equivalent to these primitive instinctive tendencies 
is simply another case of that ubiquitous fallacy which sup- 
poses that, when we have shown that something has been 
produced by something else, we have therefore shown that 
they are the same thing and have the same meaning and 
value. But this does not greatly concern us at the moment. 
Let us see how Sidgwick develops his argument from this 

Justice is requiting every man according to his desert.. 
Mere equality befor<F"tEe~Taw does not realize this ideal of 
justice. Mere protection of freedom is equally formal. How 
then shall we define this idea of desert? One principle of 
requital immediately suggests itself to us namely that men 
should be rewarded according to their intentions and efforts. 
Sidgwick does not deny that such a principle would be 
ideal if it were possible. It is, in fact, a principle which we 
apply in the more intimate relations of family and friend- 
ship. But it is impossible in the larger and more impersonal 
relations we call social. Our sense of justice does not seem 
to require the impossible, that, for instance, the artist should 
be rewarded according to his intentions or his effort, even 
if all his effort results in the production of the merest daub. 


In determining the notion of desert Sidgwick finds it 
necessary, then, to turn from the intentions of men's actions 
to their consequences, and to find the principle of just dis- 
tribution in the principle of the requital according to the 
value or utility of men's contributions to society. Here, 
again, the ideal distribution would be that which should be 
based on some accurate measure of the actual contributions 
made to the welfare of society. In the problem of the just 
rewards of labor, what a man ought to receive for his labor 
should ideally correspond to what he contributes by that 
labor. Thus, in the making of any article there enter a 
number of elements, manual labor, brain work and business 
skill and organization. But how shall we measure the value 
of these different contributions to the production of the 
total product? There is really no way of measuring them, 
and, as a matter of fact, as we have seen in the preceding 
chapter, entirely different principles are appealed to in the 
determination of what is a just wage. 1 

In view of this situation Sidgwick sees nothing for it 
but to abandon all ideas of directly equating a man's eco- 
nomic rewards with his contributions, and to leave the 
matter of just distribution to the more indirect processes 
of "supply and demand/ 5 on the assumption that in the^ 
long-run a man tends to get wfrat he d pgprx ^y Sidgwick is 
not greatly satisfied with this conception of distributive 
justice, but it seems to him to be the only one, other than 
an abstract and mechanical principle of division such as 
that applied by communism. 

What shall we say of such a conception of just distribu- 
tion? Certain difficulties immediately present themselves. 
A distribution of goods by the merely economic process of 
competition and of supply and demand cannot be justified 
in terms of desert, unless we bring in the idea of inherited 

1 Chap. IX, pp. 204 ff, 


desert. In the existing system of distribution many individ- 
uals notoriously receive economic goods which are in no 
sense returns for anything which they themselves have 
contributed. This is obvious in what is called the "unearned 
increment." It is most apparent in the case of great estates, 
such as those with which we are familiar in cities such as 
New York and London. The incomes on these estates, 
sometimes reaching fabulous proportions, cannot be equated 
in any manner with contributions that the individuals re- 
ceiving these incomes have made to society. They can be 
thought of as earned only if we are willing to swallow the 
monstrous fiction that the ancestors of the present owners 
have accumulated "merit" which has been passed on to 
their descendants. A much more intelligible conception is 
that this unearned increment is a social increment, and 
then we have the problem of the just distribution of a 
social increment and of the means by which it is to be 
justly distributed. It should be noted, moreover, that while 
the idea of the unearned increment is most obvious in the 
case of landed property, it is really applicable in principle 
to other forms of property. 

Difficulties of this sort show the impossibility of equating 
the economic distribution of goods with a "just" distribu- 
tion, in the ethical sense, if we base our notion of just 
distribution on the idea of desert. But the essential diffi- 
culty is more fundamental still. Distribution of goods, ac- 
cording to the economic principle of laissez-faire, is really 
not moral at ^al]^ The economic process js in itself a purely 
mechanical process and should_r7e so conceived. One can 
identify the actual economic process of distribution with 
the ethical conception, only if one assumes that in this 
mechanical process some "divine providence" or "imma- 
nental reason" is at work, transforming a merely mechanical 
into an ethical and spiritual process. 

This is what the thinking of the nineteenth century 


largely did. The so-called laissez-faire theory of distribution 
based its claims for equity, as well as utility, upon the 
fiction of "the virtual identity of the economic and the 
human or ethical distribution." It was quite generally as- 
sumed that if every owner of capital or labor, or any other 
factor of production, were free to apply his factor in any 
industry and any place he chose, he would choose that 
place where the highest remuneration for its employment 
was attainable. But since all remuneration for the factors 
of production is derived from the product itself, which is 
distributed among the owners of the several factors, it fol- 
lows that the highest remuneration must always apply to 
the most productive use. Thus, by securing the most com- 
plete mobility of capital and labor, we ensure both a maxi- 
mum production and an equitable distribution. 

It is not difficult to see now the fictional character of 
this entire conception. Even less difficult is it to see that 
such a process of distribution even if worked out in the 
way contemplated would not be an ethical distribution. 
It is only desert in the limited sense of pmrjurfinn thnt is 

/ *p^v-' * - ' 

taken^into Account and all otherjiuman or ethicaLJiictors 
are abstracted from. This fiction of the identity of the 
economic and the ethical process leads, moreover, to mon- 
strous consequences which show its inherent absurdity. In 
the illustration used in an earlier connection, the packers 
claimed that a wage determined by the law of supply and 
demand was a just or proper wage. We have only to press 
the packers' argument a step further to see where it leads. 
Suppose now that the working out of these processes led 
to a condition in which the majority of people were receiv- 
ing wages below the "subsistence minimum."* Would such 
a distribution be a just distribution? If not, why not? 

In presenting this situation, it is not necessary to suppose 
that any such tendency of wages could be a permanent one. 
Doubtless the economic process would tend to right itself, 


and if it did not, political revolution would restore the 
balance (and such revolution, as is invariably the case, 
would get its driving force from ideas of right and justice). 
The only point is that on this theory of justice, such a 
tendency, if it did occur, would necessarily be a just one, 
and the distribution of goods that resulted a just distribu- 
tion. If one cannot accept this consequence, he must abandon 
the entire utilitarian theory of just distribution. 


One need only present the situation in order to see that 
such a theory of distributive justice is untenable. It is open 
to us to say that justice has nothing to do with distribution, 
but if we bring the two ideas together at all we must look 
for the principle of just distribution in another quarter. 
In other words, we have been able to follow Sidgwick's 
analysis and theory of justice up to this point, but here 
we must part with him and seek in quite other conceptions 
the real basis of distributive justice. Before turning to this 
task, let us first examine briefly this same general theory 
clothed, however, in biological terms of "struggle for exist- 
ence" and "survival." 

Biological conceptions have, we have seen, been employed 
frequently to "rationalize" ethical opinions. A conspicuous 
example of this is a theory of social justice developed 
by Professor T. N. Carver. In a book entitled Essays in 
Social Justice, he defines justice in the following manner. 
"Justiceisthat system of adjusting interests which makes 
the group strong and progressive rather than weak or re- 
trogressive, whereas injustice is that system of adjusting 
conflicts wKich makes a nation weak and rftfngrpssiw rather 
than strong and progressive." * 

In such a conception of justice the emphasis is trans- 

1 Chap. I, p. 30. 


ferred from the individual to the social, but it still assumes 
the identity of what ought to be with what necessarily is. 
In examining this conception it is important first to dis- 
tinguish between two possible interpretations of this for- 
mula. It may be held merely that where justice rgigns a 
group will_ be strongand progressive and^ wherg_injustjce 
rpim,s if,._7fljflLbfi wpfl.k and .Tftrogrggguff. This may well be, 
and historical evidence might be adduced to justify such an 
assertion. In such a case, however, strength and progress 
are the effects of justice, not the criterion. The nature of 
justice would have to be found in some other reason. In the 
view before us this is not, however, what is meant. Here 
the criterion of justice and of just distribution is to be 
found in the merely biological categories of survival and 

As thus presented, it is simply a more respectable lan- 
guage for the old formula that "might makes right." Such 
a conception of justice would, of course, be subject to the 
same general criticisms that we brought against the biologi- 
cal conception of ethics as a whole. The force of that general 
criticism becomes, however, all the more patent when we 
examine this notion for itself. We have already seen that 
if the working out of the mechanical process of supply 
and demand resulted in a condition in which the majority 
.of the people were receiving a wage below the subsistence 
minimum, on the theory of the virtual identity of the eco- 
nomic and the ethical process, such a condition would havfe 
to be called just. In like manner, if, in the struggle of 
nations for economic survival and power, the reduction of 
the individuals in a nation to the level of an industrial serf- 
dom, in which they received merely enough to subsist, be- 
came a necessity, such a form of organization and of dis- 
tribution would, on this theory, necessarily be just. In other 
words, the present conception of "social" justice is merely 
another form of statement of the laissez-faire theory which 


maintains l^evirtualidentity of the economic and the ethical 
process^thje^fictional character of which we have already 


It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that ideals and 
theories of justice of the kind we have been considering in 
reality denature justice, take all the meaning out of it. In 
explaining it in this fashion they in reality explain it away. 
Merely utilitarian theories of distribution, whether eco- 
nomic or biological in their emphasis, are unsatisfactory 
for two reasons : ( i ) because they do violence to the notions 
of "common sense" as we have defined it, and (2) because, 
when carried out, they lead to consequences, both practical 
and theoretical, which show them to be untenable. We can 
only conclude that the real core of justice has not yet been 
touched and that essential elements in the ideal have been 
ignored. These essential elements we shall now attempt to 
state. We shall find that, when stated, they lead us back 
to the fundamental conceptions of the self-realization 

A moral right, we have seen, is a claim, implicit in and 
deducible from the moral end of man as a membei^ot 
society'. Justice, in the ethical sense, is then the progressive,, 
satisfaction of all these claims. A still further simplification 
fs. however, possible. Just as the formalistic, "natural 
rights" theory lumps all these claims in the claim to free- 
dom, so the self-realization theory lumps all these claims 
in the one claim to opportunity opportunity to be a per- 
son in the full sense of the word. Justice, in the ethical 
sense, is giving to every man the indispensable conditions of 

What is due a man in the sense of ethical or ideal 
justice may then be summarized in this fashion: Justice 


i^he^a^fjtionjj_thfi nnyma] p^pectations of ap pthjral 
being in an ethical society. It consists in giving to everyone 
the indispensable conditions of the "loral IH^ or of self- 
realization.But with this we come to the second necessary 
element in ~an adequate ideal of ethical justice. Justice is 
giving to every man his due. In other words, some idea of 
equality is inseparable from any notion of justice. Even in 
the legalistic notion of justice it is only because the natural 
rights are conceived as equally inherent in every individual, 
and as impartially guaranteed and protected, that any one 
would, for a moment, think of identifying them with justice. 
It is only because in the economic system, as it at present 
exists, it is assumed that each has equality of opportunity 
that it also would for a moment be called just. 



The problem of distributive justice is, we have seen, the 
theory of justice. For this reason much is 

sa"id today about economic or social justice. Strictly 

ing, there is, of course, no suchthing as economic or social 
justice, ^as~distinguished fror^thic^ is ..ethical 

ancMegal^ The economic process, except in so far as it is 
modified and directed by the moral will of men, is essen- 
tially a mechanical process. What is calledj^Qpomlc justice 
is then merely the ethically^Just distribution of economic 

TiT the solution of this practical problem two powerful 
theories or ideals stand opposed to each other, and the actual 
changes that have taken place in the economic world are 
the results of the struggle of these two opposing forces. 
We may call them the Individualistic and Socialistic. As a 
result of this struggle, there seems to be emerging a third 
conception or ideal which we may describe as that of 
"equality of opportunity." According to our way of think- 


ing, neither of these two extreme views is either logically 
tenable or practically workable. 


The individualistic or laissez-faire theory has already 
been presented in its essentials in our account of the utili- 
tarian theory of justice. From a purely utilitarian stand- 
point, it has apparently much to commend it, and it is from 
this point of view that the position is chiefly maintained. 
It may be argued, in the first place, that there is really no 
other way to distribute goods or to determine wages. It 
may be argued that it is only when a premium is put upon 
the initiative of the individual, only when that initiative 
is rewarded as it is rewarded in the competitive system, 
that production can be maintained at a level sufficient, not 
only to make possible economic progress, but even to assure 
a supply of goods necessary for human well-being. Appeal 
may be made to "human nature" to certain psychological 
factors such as the competitive impulse and the lo^'e of 

Arguments of this sort, although often exaggerated, can- 
not be lightly regarded. The psychological factors to which 
individualism appeals are real enough to make any diminu- 
tion of them doubtful policy, at least until there is clearly 
some "moral equivalent" for the competitive impulse upon 
which the present economic 'system so largely depends. In 
short, there is an element of truth in individualism which 
cannot be disregarded by any theory that hopes to be prac- 
tically workable. On the other hand, the defects of such 
a conception of justice have become equally manifest. It 
can justify itself ethically only by an appeal to the fiction 
of inherited desert. It ignores entirely the social and col- 
lective source of a large part of economic values. It rewards 
no motives except the "economic" virtues of thrift, shrewd- 
ness and energy, motives which from the standpoint of the 


more ethical interests of society are often of doubtful value 
if not actually inimical. It tends to ignore motives entirely 
and to reward only certain types of services rendered. In 
short, it leaves out of its calculations all the distinctively 
human and ethical values. It is, in principle, a non-human 
and often inhuman distribution. 


In contrast to the individualistic theory, the_ socialistic 
is primarily ethical in spirit and motive and, from the 
standpoint of an ethical ideal of distributive justice, should 
have the first claim to consideration. In its communistic 
form, the ideal, however it may be modified in practice, is 
that of the equal distribution of the goods of life. More 
moderate expressions embody the same spirit. The well 
known formula; "to every one according to his needs; 
from every one according to his abilities/' stresses the same 
principle of equality. 

There can be no question, either of the intrinsic signifi- 
cance or of the practical driving force of this ideal in modern 
life. Socialism is the historic embodiment, not only of a 
wide-spread resentment against the distribution inevitable 
in a competitive system, but of a positive principle of dis- 
tribution inherent in the ideal of the realization of social 
manhood. But the criticisms that may be brought against 
it are also of a serious nature. 

These criticisms are, first of all, of a practical character. 
It has been pointed out repeatedly that an equal distribu- 
tion of the means of life, as contemplated by pure com- 
munism, would result in adding to the income of each so 
small an amount as to be negligible. In the second place, 
communistic forms of distribution which seek an abstract 
and mechanical equalization of income, find it difficult to 
discover ethical equivalents for the individualistic and ac- 
quisitive motives which have hitherto been the main driving 


forces of production. One cannot say off-hand that human 
nature is not modifiable in this direction. The extent of 
such modifiability can be discovered only by experience; 
and it is conceivable, for instance, that Russian commu- 
nism may develop a new type of mass-man in which the 
older springs of action, characteristic of man as we have 
known him historically, shall be supplanted by purely com- 
munal motives. Nevertheless, the experience of Russian 
communism, first in industrial socialization, but more par- 
ticularly in agricultural socialization, do not promise mir- 
acles in this direction. The chief criticisms of this ideal, 
from an ethical standpoint at least, lie, however, in another 
direction. The ideal of abstract equality, embodied in this 
ideal, since it tends to ignore the element of individual 
desert, easily passes over into injustice. It is not an accident 
that in Soviet Russia justice is more or less contemptuously 
described as a survivaTot bourgeois morals. 


Our examination of the pros and cons of individualism 
and collectivism seems to indicate that there are elements 
of truth and falsity in both positions. An adequate theory 
of distributive justice would demand a conception or ideal 
of justice that retains the elements of truth in both. Indi- 
vidualism and collectivism (or socialism) constituteMiwp 

Enlightened theory, as well as sensible practice, seem to 
demand, in the words of Bernard Shaw, "the swallowing 
of all formulas." It is true, as Shaw continues, "once a 
socialist in a sense always a socialist." It is probably true 
also that once an individualist in a sense always an in- 
dividualist. But the fact remains that a practical working 
theory can scarcely be exclusively one or the other. The 
theory we shall develop may be described as the theory 
of "equality of opportunity." It claims specifically to com- 


bine the elements of truth in both of the preceding theories, 
and thus to afford a conciliation of individualism and col- 

The use of the notion of conciliation suggests immediately 
the more general opposition of egoism and altruism, of 
which the present opposition is, as we said in Chapter VII, 
but a special form. It is, of course, not quite true that col- 
lectivism or socialism is merely the extension of the senti- 
ments of sympathy and altruism to the economic and social 
spheres, as Nietzsche thought. There is more to collectivism 
than this. Nevertheless, the difficulties, both practical and 
theoretical, inherent in absolute egoism and absolute altru- 
ism are repeated mutatis mutandis in the exclusive formulas 
of individualism and collectivism. The latter are as self-de- 
feating as the former. 

The self-defeating character of pure economic individu- 
alism is seen in the doctrine of wages associated with it. On 
the old, purely individualistic theory, it was assumed that 
a "just" wage was determined by the economic law of sup- 
ply and demand, the "iron law of wages," as it was called. 
It was argued that a "natural" law demands that the em- 
ployer should seek to buy labor as cheaply as possible, 
that self-interest demands that he pay as low a wage. as 
possible. But we have come to see that "enlightened" self- 
interest does not necessarily mean as low a wage as pos- 
sible. Increased wages mean increased purchasing power, 
greater consumption, and thus greater production. Enlight- 
ened economic practice means the swallowing of this old 
economic formula. The new economic practice, associated 
with the name of Henry Ford, is considered by many people 
to be one of the great discoveries of the present era. Tn 
like manner, pure collectivism appears to be practically 
self-defeating. A merely abstract and mechanical division 
of the goods of life seems, not only to reduce the productive 
power of labor, but in the long run to fail to produce the 


conditions of life under which individuals, of varying ability 
and needs, can contribute the most to society. 


As a result of considerations of this sort, there is gradually 
emerging, both in theory and in practice, an ideal of social 
justice which seeks to mediate between these two extremes, 
and to seek in more enlightened conceptions of equality of 
opportunity a working theory of justice. It is cormog.ia_h 
felt more and more that both extreme individualism and 
extreme" collectivism are essentially dogmatic in character 
aiicTtliat no working theory is possible until we havc_swa]c 

This conception of justice holds fast to the notion that 
equality, in some sense, is an essential part oTthe ideal 
of justice. It starts out, However, witTTThe recognitions! 
thelact that the powers and capacities of men are naturally 
very unequal. A part~of this inequality is due to native 
differences of endowment over which there is little if any 
control. Another part, perhaps the greater, is due to con- 
ditions of biological inheritance and social environment 
which are modifiable to a degree not yet fully determined. 
An individual's opportunity, not only for economic success, 
but also for self-realization in the larger sense, is detef- 
mined by both these factors. Men are not equal in oppor- 
tunity at the start. 

Now any attempt to equalize the opportunity of indi- 
viduals that proceeds mechanically ignores the first factor, 
and is likely to be self-defeating. Individualistic theories 
are right in insisting on this aspect. They recognize that 
there is something very real, called personal effort or ini- 
tiative, that cannot be ignored, either in economic and ethi- 
cal thinking. It must be stimulated, conserved and rewarded 
for ends of economic production and retained in any ethical 
conception of desert. On the other hand, inequalities due 


to the second kind of causes are modifiable and have been 
continuously modified by social activity and legislation. The 
lessening of these inequalities is a necessary part of the 
ideal of social justice. 

Modifications of this sort, increasing the opportunity of 
individuals, have actually been going on continuously. It 
is idle to deny that most of these changes have taken place 
under the influence and stimulus of collectivist ideals, but 
that only goes to show that the socialist ideal or theory 
contains an ethical element that cannot be ignored. To 
enumerate the changes that have taken place along this 
line would be merely to tell the story of recent social legis- 
lation in all modern democratic societies. If we take as our 
point of departure the table of human values which has 
guided us in our study of practical ethics, we shall see im- 
mediately that there are not only laws protecting these 
values, as we have seen in Chapter IX, but that in all 
modern states there has been increasing legislation in the 
direction of the greater equalization of the opportunity to 
secure these values. A few illustrations will suffice to make 
this point clear. 

There is, in the first place, an increasingly conscious 
attempt to equalize the opportunities of men, 


are~conditioned~by bodily health and vigor. In modern 
democratic states the problem of housing is more and more 
taken out of the hands of purely individual initiative and 
made a communal concern. In European countries, it is 
to a large extent a matter of civic or even national policy; 
with us in America it is still left to voluntary associations 
of individuals, working more or less in conjunction with 
the community. In most European countries a degree of 
communal care of the health of children, sickness and old- 
age pensions for workers, are both an established part of na- 
tional policy. With us in America the consciousness of obli- 
gation in all these matters is growing, but the carrying out 


of these duties is still left to a large extent to voluntary 
institutions and to the good sense and business acumen 
of the great industrial organizations themselves. The in- 
crease of group insurance against old age on the part of 
great industrial organizations is one of the outstanding 
characters of the age. 

Nothing in recent legislation illustrates more completely, 
both the theory and practice of this conception of justice, 
than our income and inheritance taxes. In substituting this 
direct taxation for the purely indirect taxes hitherto in 
force, it was indeed partly the idea that by this method the 
indirect taxation by protective tariffs, etc., could be re- 
duced, and the incidence of taxation be more equitably 
distributed. But one of the main purposes, consciously 
enunciated, was a more equal distribution of the wealth 
of the country. President Theodore Roosevelt, to whose 
preaching of the doctrine of the "square deal" a large part 
of the initiative in social legislation was due, explicitly ad- 
vocated the reduction of "swollen fortunes" by this means. 
The graduated income tax, and the inheritance taxes which 
become progressively higher and higher with the size of the 
estate, had as their distinct object the return to society of 
a large part of those individual fortunes which were held 
to be, to a large degree, socially and not individually pro- 
duced. These laws were called socialistic and confiscatory 
at the time, but the public conscience had developed to a 
point at which no other practice was any longer possible. 

One of the chief planks in the platform of the theory of 
equality of opportunity is that, while natural endowment 
is not greatly modifiable by education, economic and social 
opportunity is greatly increased by it. Equalizing of the 
opportunities for education has, for modern democraciesT 
meanf also equalizing of opportunity. It is on the basis of 
this assumption and ideal that a minimum at least of edu- 
cation is not only assured to every individual, but has be- 


come compulsory, whether the individual or his parents 
wish it or not. The development of state universities in our 
own country, open without cost to all the youth of the 
State, is an attempt to carry the principle of equality of 
opportunity through education far beyond the minimum 
as at first formulated. It is of interest to recall that free 
education, even in the lower grades, was at first attacked 
as socialistic, and the principle was affirmed that an in- 
dividual had a right only to such education as his parents 
could pay for. 

The theory of just distribution we have been describing 
is, then, simply a conscious recognition and formulation of 
a process that has actually been going on, as the result of 
the functioning of normal human impulses, and of the de- 
mands of economic and social necessities. It constitutes a 
purposeful effort towards equality of opportunity. A large 
part of this legislation is undoubtedly a result of economic 
necessity. The change in the industrial life of modern man 
has necessitated that many things that could formerly be 
left to the individual shall now become a matter of social 
concern. Just as the right to labor became a problem only 
when industrial conditions brought about unemployment on 
a large scale, so also legislation of the type we have been 
describing became "practical politics" only when the 
changed conditions of modern industrial societies made such 
legislation imperative. On the other hand, to fail to rec- 
ognize that both the driving force and the direction of these 
changes have been due largely to an ideal of justice, would 
be to ignore factors which, while in a sense imponderable, 
are no less real and determinative. Historically, a large part 
of the reforms of the early part of the nineteenth century 
were due to the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. It is no 
exaggeration to say that the ethical ideals we have been 
describing have been equally influential in the legislation 
of more recent times. 


One other aspect of this theory should be specifically 
noted. As a result of its recognition of the element of truth 
in the individualistic theory of justice, its procedure, its 
method of attaining equality of opportunity, is indirect 
rather than direct. Communism has a similar ideal also, but 
it seeks to attain it by a direct and arbitrary equalization 
of conditions. In general, it may be said of direct and me- 
chanical equalization what Ramsay Macdonald has said of 
all kinds of direct action, namely that "it tends to be a 
movement in a circle/' All arbitrary and forceful action 
can maintain itself only by the same tyranny and injustice 
which it seeks to displace. It is in the end self-defeating. 
This is the basal argument for all evolutionary conceptions 
of the realization of justice, as opposed to revolutionary con- 
ceptions with their appeal to direct action of any and every 


The working theory of justice that has been outlined 
seems to be that which commends itself to a critical and 
enlightened reason. But it is more than this. It is also the 
ideal which seems to be guiding public opinion as it finds 
expression in progressive legislation and in the official ex- 
pressions of enlightened conscience. It may be well to illus- 
trate this more definitely by an example taken from recent 
legislation and legal practice. 

The illustration I have taken is the change, both in public 
opinion and in law, as to what constitutes just compensa- 
tion for injuries received by workmen in prosecuting their 
labor under modern industrial conditions. Workmen's Com- 
pensation Laws have been passed in various states, of which 
we may mention merely New York and Connecticut, which 
embody a complete change in social philosophy and an 
almost new legal principle. 

Prior to the passage of these laws, there existed the "Pel- 


low Servant " doctrine of responsibility. According to this 
principle, employees on entering service took upon them- 
selves, as incident to hiring, the risks from negligence or 
carelessness of their fellow servants. 

In the administration of the law, which went back to 
English common law, and was thus derived from condi- 
tions of industry of a very simple nature, it was increasingly 
felt that great injustice was done. This feeling reached its 
culmination in an attack by Theodore Roosevelt upon a 
supreme court justice of the State of Connecticut (who was 
at that time running for governor of the State on the Demo- 
cratic ticket) for upholding the existing law in a case of 
compensation that came before him. The answer of the 
judge was that he did not believe that the law was just, but 
since it was the law, legal justice required that he adminis- 
ter it impartially. 

Since that time it has been increasingly felt that the old 
law was unjust and a new type of Employers' Liability Law 
has been passed in most of our states, involving a complete 
change in social philosophy. According to this new legisla- 
tion, the employee is no longer compelled to assume the 
risk, and the responsibility is shifted from the shoulder of 
the employee to that of the employer. The direct cause of 
this change is the recognition of the fact that the worker 
cannot be expected to assume the risk for the reason that, 
because of the complexity of modern industrial processes, it 
is practically impossible to prove the negligence or careless- 
ness of fellow servants. 

The shifting of the responsibility to the employer, is, of 
course, only apparent. Through employers' liability insur- 
ance, the employer is protected against risk, and the cost of 
the insurance is reckoned in the cost of production of the 
article, and thereby ultimately shifted to the consumer. 
Actually, therefore, the risk is shifted from an individual 
to a social basis. With this, as we have said, there is a rad- 


ical change in social philosophy. This shift appears at two 
points, (i) in a modification of the principle of complete 
freedom of contract and (2) in the enunciation of the prin- 
ciple of social responsibility. This radical change is deserv- 
ing of close study as indicative of a gradual shifting from 
the individualistic to the socialistic conception of responsi- 
bility, but chiefly for the reason that it illustrates the modi- 
fication of "legal" justice through ideals of ethical justice 
and shows the direction in which ethical concepts of justice 
point. 1 



* J. Royce, Studies in Good and Evil, Chap. XI. 

* H. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. V. 

* J. Dewey, and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chaps. XXII-XXV. 

F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Chap. IX. 
Herbert Spencer , Justice. 

* T. N. Carver, Essays in Social Justice. 

G. Lowes Dickinson, Justice and Liberty. 
Plato, Republic. 


H. R. Seager, Principles of Economics, Chaps. XXIV-XXXIV. 
L. D. Edie, The New Economics. 

* J. A. Hobson, Work and Wealth, A Human Valuation, Chap. 


* J. A. Ryan, Distributive Justice, Chaps. XV-XXI. 

H. Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Vol. I. Bk. I, Chap. 

* L. T. Hobhouse, Social Justice. 

R. Eucken, Socialism, an Analysis, (trans.). 

Holland, Jurisprudence, Chaps. VII, ff. 

T. V. Smith, The American Philosophy of Equality. 

RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE (Theories of Punishment). 

* W. K. Wright, General Introduction to Ethics, Chap. XV. 

W. Wundt, Ethics, Vol. II (Principles of Morals) Chap. III. 

1 The entire situation is well described in the analysis of the case, "Streeter 
v. Western-Wheeled Scraper Company", tried in the Supreme Court of 
Illinois, 1912, and reported in G. C. Cox's, The Public Conscience, pp. 286- 


E. F. Carritt, The Theory of Morals, Chap. XII. 
* Hastings Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil, Vol. I, 
Chap. IX. 


E. V. Abbott, Justice and The Modern Law. 

J. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and 

Hegel, Outlines of a Philosophy of Right. 



There is, we have seen, a point of view from which our 
duties rather than our rights should be uppermost in our 
minds. The only proper perspective for the moral agent. as 
an individual, is expressed by the question, what ought I to 
do? I may, indeed, ask with a certain propriety, what ought 
I to have? (Every man, as man, has certain claims that he 
may make on life and society) and I, as a man, am no ex- 
ception to the rule. I may, with even more propriety, ask, 
what ought I to be?(gvery man seeks the good rather than 
the bad. He is always doing and choosing. But he can not 
act or choose, can not achieve or realize anything, without 
inevitably achieving what we call character, realizing also 
what we call the self/ It is eminently fitting that^ie should 
have some ideal of what his character should be, what he as 
a self ought to becomeJBut the _f act remains that the prac- 
tical^jnoral problems of the individual revolve primarily 

he should dp. 

This question may be asked in two different ways and 
has, therefore, two somewhat different meanings. The first 
way in which it may be asked is ^is : AVhatought I to do, 
as a Iiuman^eing^ and not as an animal, as a developed 

a "primitive, 

^ _ 

capable of being answereciina universal sense in the uni- 
ve^sal "sense irT which it is asked. This is the problem of 
ethics asTa sciencerThe other way of asking the question 
is, What ought I toJdoTs an individual in these particular 
circumstances? T^o this question scjenrp nf 



only general hints and directions. For science deals only 

Ethics can ignor^neither of these ways of asking the 
question and must find some answer to both. But it can not 
be insisted upon too strongly that the first question is the 
primary one, and that it is with this that ethics, as an 
organized body of human knowledge about values, is first of 
all concerned. All sciences, including the descriptive and 
explanatory, are concerned with general laws or universals. 
They must, indeed, also seek to explain individual happen- 
ings to subsume them under universal laws. But the de- 
termination and interpretation of the general law is the 
primary task. As the descriptive scieiices_are^ concerned with 
the disco very jo f^Jaws^ so >_the normative -sciences_are_^on- 
cerned with the formulation of norms, more specifically 
norms of right, of duty, and of virtue. Thejipplication 6! 
these norms to the ^pecificjifuatlon^ 7 although an inescap- 
able part of moral "science," is a_secondary problem^ 

TiTTEe light of the preceding we may divide the discus- 
sions of the present chapter into two parts. The first will 
be concerned with an attempt to answer the question, as to 
what is my duty, in the first form, the second will consider 
"The Place of Moral Rules in Ethics." 



concept of duty or obligation arises^ we have seen, 
sx) soon as the securing of goods becomes a human problem, 
so soon as we are faced with the choice of the greater or 
the lesser good., There is then, so to speak, what the philoso- 
phers call an a priori relation between value and obligation, 
that is a relation that is both universal and necessary. /The, 
proposition that the gopd_ought jo . b rhnsen_rafhpr -lhaja 
the bad, the g^^r i^^v J^VJ^IQ lesser goojjLJs .axiomatic* 
No reason can be given for this other than that the oppo- 


site can not be given an intelligible meaning, or as the 
philosophers used to say, can not be conceived. 1 

('It follows that in the men^ recognition of a good or jvaljue 
there i\imp1i'H irnmed^^^y thp ^bMgali^mJ^jiegk jtt may 
indeed, with the satanic soul, say, "evil be thou my good/' 
I may seek to get "beyond good and evil," to break up all 
the old tables of values and duties and to make new ones; 
but from the new ones will spring the same sense of obliga- 
tion, as Nietzsche himself came to see. We may seek, like 
him, to depreciate or explain away the feeling of obliga- 
tion, only to find that we have merely changed the objects 
towards which the sense of obligation or duty is directed. 
We simply create new tables for old. 

This is the meaning of duty or obligation in its primary 
and its broadest sense/Duty, in this sense, is coextensive 
with our world of values. "By tli^mherent logic of action, 
our world of values becomes a world of Duties, '^and a table 
6T duT!es""coruTcrait besFTeproduce our table of values in a 
less fundamental form. 

Now this broader conception is the only one that is ulti- 
mately satisfactory for moral theory. Conduct, as we have 
seen, is not merely a part of life not merely even three- 
fourths of life, as Matthew Arnold said but the whole of 
life in one of its aspects. It is well, therefore, to emphasize 
this truth. The artist can not get a glimpse of the value 
of beauty without its entailing obligations which he refuses 
at his peril. The thinker or scientist can not start upon 
the search for truth without creating for himself obliga- 
tions that immediately become the lords of all his life. As 
in Carlyle's vivid terms, "the workman may break the whole 
decalogue with every stroke of his hammer," so the faith- 
less artist or scientist may strike at the entire moral order 
by disloyalty to the obligations that are peculiarly his. 

l Thc fuller meaning of this and its implications will be developed in 
Chapter XV. 


All this is true and should not be lost sight^ of. On the 
other hand, it must be admitted that, true as this broader 
conception of duty \is, its very broadnes^f makes it so vague 
as to render it almost useless, not only for moral practice 
but also for moral science and theory.) Any real answer to 
the question, what ought I to do, what is my duty, requires 
a more specific and, in a sense, narrower conception of duty. 

Our fathers understood this situation very well and, with 
an insight and clearness of mind often denied to their more 
muddled-headed posterity, coined excellent terms to describe 
it. They spoke of the "counsels of duty" and then of the 
"counsels of perfection" which went beyond duty in this 
narrow sense. They spoke of duties of "perfect obligation" 
and duties of "imperfect obligation," and in these phrases 
characterized certain distinctions of very great importance, 
which we shall do well to have in mind. By dutiesjjf perfect 
obligation we shall_theii^-understaai_,lho5eJ -duties ~whid\ 
spring frfrQi valuesjar^^ 
to" aIT~practical intents(jjniversal^_jsc^ in 

ByTmperTect obligation we_shall designate oblj 

are . 

of the values frqm_which_they spring, but^which lack thai 
universality and necessity_which claims^ arising irorn tixa. 
more" fundamental values have. The obligations of the 
thinker to truth or of the artist to beauty are genuine and 
binding. But unless we hold some romantic philosophy of 
genius which puts the genius above good and evil, we can- 
not fail to see that the homely duties, to wife and child, and 
to his fellow men in general, are binding for him, no less 
than for those of more ordinary clay. In general, the greater 
the man, the less will he want to have himself exempted from 
the normal obligations of life. 

Duty in this narrower sense may then be defined as jjiy- 
due, or as respect for the rightsToFclaims 


of men which^follows upon the recognition andjtcknowledg- 
ment ofjiuman values. 

To this definition of duty in the ethical sense, we may 
with advantage add a definition of the notion of duty in 
law. Duty Jin Jaw) is that active orj^assiye furtherance^pf 
the rights of othersjwhich is enforced by jthe law. 1 Legal 
duty is corciative^Jix. legal right. To__enfqrce a dut^Js To 
vindicate a right, whether it be a duty owed to the.State_as_a 
whole, or to particukrJndividuals^A duty in the latter sense 
is a duty in pcrsonam. A duty owed to all our fellow citi- 
zens,jpr a large class Q 

personal one. 2 

The distinction between duties of perfect and of imper- 
fect obligation is, of course, only relative, but for that rea- 
son none the les^mTpo^ntr^lro 

values of life, we shall feel a sense of perfect obligation 
towards the ideal values of truth and beauty, noless than to- 

and of institutions. lijve iLT 

^perfectionists, " ^counsels of perfection become/of course, 
duties in the broader sense. But thisfact, and its recogni- 
tion, does not prevent us from recognizing also that, even 
from the Rtanrlpoipt of perfectionism, some duties are more 
fundamental than others. There is a certain law of the moral 
life which compels us to put things in their right order. And 
wTiffe some values are higher thaiToHipE^ this does not ex- 
clude the fact that some lower in the scale are the more 
indispensable. 7T TEese_oiaght yeTT6"Tiave_ 

leave the other "undone." Any other view is sheer unreason in 
the sphere of values^ ~~ 


Duty in this latter, narrower sense, corresponds almost 
completely with rights. Our duty towards a man is giving 

1 Holland, Jurisprudence, Chapter VII, 74. 

2 Pollock, First Book of Jurisprudence, Chapter IV, p. 81. 


him what is due him. Sjm^ky^ o^ 

ancHts institutions ar^^buLAcknowledgment of the claims 
which they_ rm^e_uon us > as Juadispjensablg^jconditjpns of the 
goocTTIfe. The f ^ndament^jrkitjesjrnay then be describee! 
as re^gect^ofjiglits. As such, indeed, they constitute the 
chief commandments. 

Duty in this narrower sense being wholly correlative 
with rights, a classification of duties would be but a classi- 
fication of rights in another form. Such tables or classifica- 
tions could indeed be made, and would have a certain 
value. Thus, Burning _that_J or jvery_ legitimate claim or 
right there is a corresponding^ duty or respect due the claim, 
weTmgiit explore the entire web of human relations. The 
duty~oTa man to respectTB^TTfe, the freedom, The property, 
and the character, of his fellows; the duties of a man to 
his wife and children; of employer to workman and of work- 
man to employer; respect for truth and for the cultural or 
spiritual values in general, and for the moral order and 
the law in which the moral order is Embodied all these 
might be tabulated and classified in the fashion of our sys- 
tem of values. 

Such a picture of "the whole duty of man" would not be 
without its advantages. It would give us a comprehensive 
view of the entire field of human obligation and make us 
acquainted with the continuous efforts of men to embody 
their obligations in law. But it would also have the defect 
of its qualities. It would at best be an abstraction from life. 
The only effective way to study the rights and duties is to 
examine them in the context of the specific historical insti- 
tutions in connection with which they have developed. (The 
fact that duties) like the rights which they presuppose, are 
relative and functional, makes it impossible to determine 
their nature and scope except in their specific contexts. An 
attempt to do this will be made in connection with the two 
institutions of property and the family. Here we shall con- 


fine our study to problems growing out of the general nature 
of moral duties. 


That wherever a legitimate claim on the part of any mem- 
ber of society is acknowledged and established there are 
corresponding duties on the part of others, seems self- 
evident. Such at least is implied in "common law" and in 
the statute law built upon it. In our study of the table of 
values we found, not only that there are laws protecting all 
the fundamental human goods, but that these laws imply 
both the duty of individuals to respect these goods, and 
also duties of society as a whole. My duty to respect the 
property or good name of my neighbor is recognized, but 
the rights to free contract and free association or assembly 
must also be respected by the State. 

This phase of the situation is recognized, but there are 
other aspects that are not so self-evident. As a general prin- 
ciple it would be recognized that my possession of a right 
implies the obligation to[exercise that right in certain ways^ 
There are, to be sure, people who suppose themselves to 
have rights without corresponding duties; but in the main 
we recognize this as a lack of moral sense. 

Illustrations of this relation could be found in connection 
with every conceivable right. I shall take merely the rights 
of property and free contract. A man's right to property 
entails obligations to use it in certain ways. Many of these 
duties belong only to the region of ethics and the man's own 
conscience, but some of them are embodied in law. A man 
may, for instance, use his property for his own ends, but 
the duty that it shall not become a nuisance to his neighbor 
is exacted by the law also. The right to free contract is 
granted to the individual as the indispensable condition of 
self-realization, but with that right goes the duty, also em- 


bodied in the law, of not entering into contracts which are 
contrary to the public good, or positively of exercising that 
right in the direction of the common weal. 

Rights and duties are then correlative in the two senses 
described above. But there is still another aspect of the rela- 
tion which is more doubtful and more difficult to establish 
with certainty. 

Rights imply duties, but is it not also true that duties 
imply rights? Are there not always rights wherever there 
are duties? This is often denied by practical men and by 
some moral thinkers. There can be no question that in any 
given society there will actually be found duties without 
corresponding rights that are acknowledged, as for instance, 
the obligation to labor without the right to labor. The obli- 
gation to work has long been accepted as part of the ethical 
minimum embodied in law, but the corresponding right to 
work has only grudgingly and gradually been admitted. 

In the long run, however, such moral asymmetry tends 
to be felt as social and political maladjustment, and to indi- 
cate a society out of equilibrium; eventually there is a cor- 
responding tendency to readjustment. One of the chief 
aspects of ethical advance, or progress, is to be found in this 
continual new determination of the correlation existing be- 
tween rights and duties. Often it is of the nature of a new 
insight, of a real moral discovery. So long as the rights of 
women, more especially the right of suffrage, were argued 
on the basis of abstract right, the problem remained to a 
degree academic and did not vitally affect the moral sense of 
men. It was only when, during the World War, it was dis- 
covered that civic duties were demanded of women, in many 
ways equal to those demanded of men, and that they were 
ready and able to fulfill them, that the corresponding polit- 
ical rights were acknowledged. 

In general it may be said, I think, that this tendency to 
secure moral symmetry, or the balance of rights and duties, 


is an ineradicable part of our moral sense or moral reason. 
In this case, as in the case of the right to labor discussed in 
Chapter IX, it was a "condition" and not a theory that 
forced the issue. "The large events in the political world 
are/' as Mr. Bertrand Russell says, "determined by the 
interaction of material conditions and human passions." But 
it remains true that a moral order out of equilibrium one 
in which there is an internal contradiction between right 
and duty is felt to be an order of unreason. When Lincoln 
maintained that a democracy could not continue indefinitely 
half slave and half free, he was enunciating a fact which 
the logic of economic events made more and more obvious, 
but he also asserted a principle which the logic of moral 
reason also made more and more inescapable. 


With the recognition of the correlative character of rights 
and duties there comes into clear view another aspect of 
duty which is of great importance.(E)uties) like the rights 
which they imply, (are instrumental and functional./ We have 
seen what these terms mean in the case of rights. Rights are 
not, so to speak, qualities which inhere in the individual as 
abstracted from society. They are also not unchanging enti- 
ties that may be enumerated for all time and, perhaps, re- 
duced to one abstract conception such as freedom. Such a 
conception is purely formal and, as such, ineffective. Rights 
are functional in the sense that they describe reciprocal 
relations between individuals in a changing society. The 
same is obviously true of duties. 

"New occasions teach new duties," we are told. It is en- 
tirely obvious that, if, as we have seen, specific claims or 
rights are historically conditioned, the duties that corre- 
spond to them must also be thus conditioned. The fact that 
a duty may be relative from the standpoint of different his- 
torical levels, does not at all mean that it is equally relative 


for an individual living on a specific level of social develop- 
ment. CThe duty embodied in the commandment, thou shalt 
not kill, is indeed conditioned by our present insight into, 
and acknowledgment of, the sacredness of lif^/which did not 
exist on lower levels of development?) But once that insight 
and acknowledgment is achieved, the duty becomes absolute 
and unconditioned. It is not meant here that no exceptions 
to this rule or principle are conceivable, as in the case of 
capital punishment or euthanasia. That is another problem. 
What is meant is merely that we cannot argue from this his- 
torical relativity to relativity for the individual. 

This aspect of the question will be considered more fully 
in Chapter XVI, where we shall examine the problems of 
moral relativity and scepticism for themselves. In this con- 
nection it is more important to emphasize another inference 
from this principle of the functional and relative character 
of duty. New occasions teach new duties in the sense that 
old duties are modified. But changing conditions bring into 
being duties that are wholly unexistent on lower levels of 
development. This is in principle true in all phases of human 
life and activity, but it is most obvious in the world of 
economic relations in which, as a result of the industrial 
revolution, changes have been most rapid and far reaching. 
A code of duties governing the relations of employer and 
employee, entirely adequate for small scale production, be- 
comes wholly inadequate for the large scale production of 
modern industry. An employer may jccl no new duty, but 
the duty is there and tends ultimately to be embodied in law. 


It is precisely because of considerations such as the fore- 
going that the greatest moralists have constantly contrasted 
the "spirit" with the "letter" of the law, and have almost 
unanimously striven to lead the mind from moral rules them- 
selves to the spirit or principle back of the rules. Thus the 


famous saying of Jesus, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God 
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy 
mind, and thy neighbor as thyself. On these two command- 
ments hang all the law and the prophets/' In certain Chris- 
tian liturgies this summary follows after the Ten Com- 
mandments. Similar attempts to summarize "the whole duty 
of man" can be found in all the more developed racial mo- 
ralities and in what are called the ethical religions. Indeed, 
as has been frequently pointed out recently by Aldous 
Huxley however varied may be the minor rules of different 
races, corresponding to different environments and different 
stages of development, the moral and religious geniuses of 
all peoples show a singular unanimity in respect to what we 
call fundamental principles. What Huxley calls the "axes of 
reference we call good and evil" vary with the mental posi- 
tion of different peoples, but he goes on to point out that 
"the axes chosen by the best observers have always been 
startlingly like one another, Gotama, Jesus and Lao-tsze, for 
example. They lived sufficiently far from one another in 
space, time, and social position. But their pictures of reality 
resemble one another very closely. The nearer man ap- 
proaches to these in penetration, the more nearly will his 
axes of reference approach to theirs." l 


The general nature of duty is now before us. To the ques- 
tion what ought I to do? in its first form and its primary 
meaning, we have given an answer which, while very gen- 
eral, does bring out the real nature of duty. Such an answer 
as this does not, it is true, take us very far into the com- 
plexity and richness of the moral life. It is only in the 
concrete context of the more specific study of the social 
institutions of mankind that we can give a really satisfactory 

1 Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, p. 377. 


answer to the question. Still more is it true that to the ques- 
tion what ought I to do in a specific situation, no answer 
can be given except in such a context. Nevertheless, it is still 
possible to lay down certain general principles regarding the 
place of moral rules in the ethical life. We may therefore 
with advantage consider these in the present chapter. 

With this question what ought I to do? in its second 
meaning, we come to what is, in many ways, the most diffi- 
cult problem of ethics one on which, for some moralists, 
the whole idea of ethics as a "science" comes to grief. 
Ethics, it is said, has no way of telling us what we ought to 
do in specific cases. In reality, the moral life is much more 
a matter of common sense, of intuitive insight, or of art, 
than of knowledge or science. 

Now there is just enough of truth in this position to make 
it necessary to examine this entire question of "moral rules" 
with great care. In general we have, in the history of morals, 
two contrasting positions. There is one represented by Kant, 
which bids us apply the norms or rules of conduct rigorously 
to each particular situation. Universality is the essence of 
reason, and variation from the norm, or the universal, is 
unreason. On the other hand, we have the more liberal posi-' 
tion, according to which each particular problem of duty, 
each concrete moral situation, is unique, and can only be 
solved by the good sense or intuitive insight of the indi- 
vidual. Expressed negatively, this position tells us, in the 
words of Bernard Shaw, u the only golden rule is that there 
are no golden rules." The "quintessence of Ibsenism," the 
fruit of a long line of ethical studies in his "problem plays," 
is held by Mr. Shaw to be precisely this rule. 

There can be scarcely any question that the rigorous 
application of moral rules represents "common sense" in 
one of its moods. There can be just as little question that 
the more liberal interpretation represents this same "com- 


mon sense" in another equally fundamental attitude. How 
shall we solve this contradiction? 

The first position is in a sense the more "logical." There 
is, we saw, an inherent logic of conduct according to which 
our world of values becomes a world of duties. But this 
logic extends further than this. Once the duties, correspond- 
ing to the values and rights, are acknowledged, this same 
logic seems to require us to argue in the following fashion. 
If property is an indispensable condition of self-realization, 
then to take property, or to steal, is wrong. Stealing is 
wrong; this act is a case of stealing; therefore this act is 
wrong. This form of reasoning has been described as the 
practical or moral syllogism, and for the rigorist it is as 
cogent as any properly constructed syllogism, in any other 
region of thought. Moral rules or universals are strictly ap- 
plicable to particular cases. 


There is no question that the moral reason normally 
works in this way, and no one would question its thus work- 
ing, if it were not for the fact that moral rules or universals 
conflict, or at least appear to conflict. If there were no 
such conflicts, we should probably raise no questions about 
moral rules, but simply obey them implicitly and almost 
mechanically. To take an illustration of two alternative 
acts possible to me, one is an instance of keeping promises, 
another an instance of saving an innocent life. I have then 
to decide, to the best of my ability, which is my actual duty 
in the premises or, granting that both are duties in the uni- 
versal sense, which is my paramount duty. 

Our natural and involuntary use of such expressions as 
"actual" duty or "paramount" duty is highly significant. 
We do not deny that both are duties in one very important 
sense of the word namely that both are correlative to im- 
portant claims or rights and to values which these rights 


presuppose. On the other hand, in any given situation both 
can not be at the same time my actual duty, or my duty in 
equal degree. 

The recognition of this practical situation has found ex- 
pression in the term casuistry, and in the creation in many 
moral systems of a body of doctrine known under that name. 
Casuistry may be defined as the systematic discussion of 
the application of moral law to specific cases (called "cases 
of conscience") in which such application is not certain. In 
this broad sense, it is an inevitable part of ethical reflection. 
Solution of such conflicts is necessary in the practical moral 
life, and some formulation of principles to guide it is a neces- 
sary part of ethics. Casuistry in the historical sense fell into 
disrepute and was severely attacked by Pascal. And on the 
whole rightly, for it had developed into a complicated sys- 
tem of rules for breaking rules. It is quite enough that we 
should require particular rules of conduct, but the formula- 
tion of rules for the breaking of rules became intolerable. 
The term casuistry came, therefore, to connote in many 
minds over-subtle or verbal discussions of the moral quality 
of acts and a tendency towards moral laxity. Nevertheless, 
some principle of solution of moral conflicts is imperative, 
and the only other way is to fall back upon the great funda- 
mental law of values of which the particular command- 
ments are but fragmentary aspects. This is the course which 
a teleological, rather than a formalistic, theory must follow. 

It is obvious, then, that the very fact of conflict of two 
duties implies that they are both in a real sense duties, but 
also that, in the situation, only one of them can be my actual 
or paramount duty. In the particular conflict cited, I have 
given my promise, and it is not difficult for me to see how 
important the keeping of promises is. It is an indispensable 
condition of those values of association without which the 
moral life, or the good life as we have defined it, is impos- 
sible. But the saving of an innocent life has here a para- 


mount claim. For while mere life is not an intrinsic good, it 
is yet the fundamental and indispensable condition of the 
realization of other values. In the scale of human values 
bodily life is not the most important, but it is the most 
fundamental of all the values. A lesser duty is annulled by a 
greater duty. 

The principle which underlies the solution of this con- 
flict, and other conflicts of duty of like nature, is clear. It 
may be described as the principle that holds that "every 
action is right which, in the presence of a lower principle, 
follows a higher." This has been called by Martineau the 
formal and exact definition of right and he is, I think, justi- 
fied in so describing it. It is the same principle which we 
formulated earlier as the principle of the choice of the 
greater over the lesser good, the one immediately self- 
evident moral law, and the one which underlies any teleo- 
logical theory of ethics, however it may conceive or define 
the good. 

This is the only method of solution possible on any 
teleological theory of ethics. It is, moreover, the one actually 
followed in ordinary life. If I have to choose between ab- 
stracting a friend's revolver from his drawer, or allowing 
him to carry out his threat of suicide, I take the revolver 
without any compunctions of conscience. I do not attempt to 
justify my action by saying to myself, "that was not really 
stealing." I know perfectly well that I stole it, even if I did 
it for his own good. I have chosen a higher value rather than 
a lower. This principle is, moreover, embodied in the law. 
Thus, in general, the principle is maintained that contracts 
must be kept. This is a legal sanction given to the general 
ethical principle of the necessity of keeping promises. But 
this general principle, important as it is, is annulled by 
higher principles. In general any contract made under 
duress, or in violation of existing laws, is ab initio null and 
void. It is a principle, in both church and civil law, that a 


contract of marriage made under compulsion is against pub- 
lic policy and is invalid. The value of keeping promises and 
contracts is not in the least impugned. But the values of the 
person which are violated by such a contract of marriage, 
are of a higher order, and the "higher principle" or value 
must be followed. 


The general tendency of casuistry has been felt to be in 
the direction of greater moral laxity than the ordinary moral 
sense of man permits. Nor can it be denied that any theory 
of morals that permits the breaking of "moral rules" in the 
interest of the values of life, opens the way to such laxity. 
But it is not a necessary consequence if the real nature of 
morality is kept in sight. 

In the first place, the burden of proof is always on him 
that makes an exception. Kant insisted that to make an 
exception to a moral rule is always wrong, because the 
essence of morality is universality. This principle, we saw, 
could not be carried out. But it is true that the probabilities 
are all in favor of the moral rule. The burden of proof is 
especially heavy when the solution is in the interest of the 
individual's own desires. It is common moral sense to say 
that a lie is justified only when higher values are at stake, 
and when it is not to the individual's own advantage. 

For reasons of this sort, the situation is quite different 
when we are judging others from what it is when we are 
judging ourselves. Loyalty to one's wife, the command not 
to commit adultery, is, as we shall see in a later chapter, a 
norm which springs out of the very nature of the sex life as 
it is lived by developed man. It is also a norm embodied in 
civil law and sanctioned by religion. A violation of that 
norm, on my own part, the annulling of that principle by 
what I may call "higher values" of the person, is one which 
I can contemplate only at my spiritual peril. It is true that I 


may argue, as many do, that love between myself and my 
wife is no longer possible, and that to live together without 
love is to degrade the persons of both of us. I may argue, 
moreover, that love is an indispensable condition of the 
highest self-realization, and that the lower principle of tech- 
nical fidelity is annulled by a higher principle. Men and 
women "have a right to happiness." I may argue thus, but 
I am in great peril of "rationalizing" my own conduct, of 
finding moral reasons for what I want to do. In sudi reason- 
ing I may also ignore other personal values of character 
which are even more indispensable for self-realization. 

The judgment on another is, however, of a markedly dif- 
ferent character, simply because it is impossible to know 
all that is involved in the specific situation. To know all does 
not necessarily mean to pardon all, but it does often mean 
to change one's judgment upon persons in significant ways. 
In general, the principle, to be hard on one's self and liberal 
in one's judgment of others, is based on profound moral 
considerations. We may indeed value very highly those 
people who are capable of great sacrifice of bodily and per- 
sonal values for higher ends, but we cannot always demand 
of people what we admire, still less demand of others what 
we would demand of ourselves. An extreme case will bring 
out the point of this contention. If a man is subjected to tor- 
ture and endures, even unto the death, rather than betray a 
friend or an important secret, we may admire such qualities 
and be thankful that the human race has such capacities. 
But we cannot demand it of men. The limits to the bearing 
of pain are set by physiological conditions to a large degree 
beyond the control of men. The "instinct" of self-preserva- 
tion, implanted for biological purposes, is imperative, and 
the will to the sacrifice of life for higher ends is not wholly 
within our control. Nature sets specific limits to what we 
may demand of men. 

For this reason it is also a profound insight that leads us 


to distinguish between the person and the act, to "hate the 
sin and love the sinner," "Judge not that ye be not judged" 
is often wise counsel where it is a matter of judgment on 
persons, in the case of whom neither the real motives nor the 
intolerable pressure may be comprehensible to us. But moral 
judgment on the act, as such, we cannot escape. This point 
is of great importance in the present day, when for many 
lax judgment upon the individual, because of the specific 
character of the situation, means to change the right or 
wrong of types of acts themselves. Our fathers were content 
to recognize that their conduct was often bad, and merely 
to plead extenuating circumstances. Now-a-days people are 
not content unless, by some hook or crook, the act itself is 
changed from bad into good also. Of such is sentimentalism 
in morality made. 

Finally, while a "reasonable" morality must always admit 
of exceptions to moral rules, it must be recognized that it 
is not so easy to justify the exceptions as appears at first 
sight. It is, in fact, extremely difficult to show that a given 
exception to a moral rule will result in greater good than 
will adherence to the rule. Ruskin has described this 
situation in the following impressive words: "No man ever 
knows or can know what will be the ultimate result to him- 
self or to others, of any given line of conduct. But every 
man may know 3 and most of us do know, what is a just and 
unjust act. And all of us may know also, that the conse- 
quences of justice will be ultimately the best possible, both 
to others and ourselves, though we neither can say what is 
best or how it is likely to come to pass." (Unto This Last.) 
St. Crispin may have been sure that to steal leather from 
the rich to make shoes for the poor would result in greater 
happiness or good in the immediate present, but by what 
calculation could he foresee the ultimate effects of his viola- 
tion of the respect for property? A doctor may be sure that 


allowing a patient to die means greater happiness and less 
pain in the immediate present, but by what calculation can 
he determine the ultimate effects of a lowering of the sacred- 
ness of the right to life? 

Reflections of this sort in no sense involve the abandon- 
ment of a teleological for a formalist point of view. They 
mean merely that, even from a teleological point of view, the 
place of moral rules in the ethical life is a fundamental one. 


There are those who see in the facts we have been con- 
sidering the proof that ethics is not a science, but at most a 
matter of common sense, of intuitive insight of art rather 
than knowledge. The only golden rule is that there are no 
golden rules. Moral rules, such as they are, are made for 
life, not life for moral rules. Life is a free, creative process, 
and full and generous living spurns all moral rules. Genuine 
moral life, like all life, is free creation of values and is there- 
fore more akin to art. 

Now it will be agreed by all that no moral rule, or num- 
ber of moral rules, will excuse us from using common sense 
and sympathetic insight or intuition. There are no "fool- 
proof" moral rules that can be applied without intelligence 
and knowledge to the complexities of human life. To say, if 
my wife must die of the truth, let her die, is surely a case 
where the principle of respect for and obligation to the 
truth, was not fool-proof. Again, all would agree that if there 
are valid moral rules, duties of a universal character, they 
are surely not of such a character that they can be applied 
mechanically, without the consideration of the particular 
situation and without considering the possibility of excep- 
tions. The moral syllogism is such a mechanical application 
of principle and as such, like all mechanism, inimical to life. 
It is only by recognition of this principle that we can escape 


both moral error and moral absurdity. But when it is said 
that moral rules are made for life, not life for rules, it is still 
recognized that moral rules do exist and in so jar as they 
serve life they are valid. 

This truth no adequate conception of morality can afford 
to overlook. There is undoubtedly a sense in which the 
moral life is an art. Just as the greater and more accom- 
plished the artist, the less he is concerned with the slavish 
following of rules, so the greater the development and in- 
sight of a moral being, the less is he concerned with external 
rules and the more he is preoccupied with ideals and values. 
No one needs rules for the performance of anything that he 
has very much at heart. The rules of conduct, in any field, 
whether of life or of art, are important for us, as such, in 
proportion as our interest in the ends for which the rules are 
the means, is small. A serious student does not need rules 
for study, and a moral genius or saint does not greatly need 
rules of conduct. 

But the fact that in an art, such as painting or sculpture, 
the accomplished artist transcends the rules and in the end 
swallows his own formulas, often hides from us the fact that 
he can swallow them only because he has first learned them 
and subjected himself to them. At the basis of every art 
there is an element of "science." However changing an art 
such as that of painting or music may be, back of the 
changes lie certain structural principles which every great 
work of art embodies and shows forth. It can scarcely be 
otherwise with life. After all, men remain men and women 
women, and the basal relations cannot in reality greatly 
change. He that will make of life an art will also seek the 
structural principles of life, else that which he creates, 
whether of performance or of character, will, like the bizarre 
creations of the "untrammelled" artist, carry their untruth 
on their face. Of such bizarre creations one can only say, 
"interesting, but not important." 



* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. V. 

* J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. III. 
J. Laird, Study of Moral Theory, Chap. VIT. 

H. Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. I, Chap. V. 
B. Bosanquet, Some Suggestions in Ethics, Chap. VI. 
F. H. Bradley, Ethical Studies, Essay V. 
Aristotle, Ntcomachcean Ethics, Bk. II. 


* E. F. Carritt, The Theory of Morals, Chap. XIII. 

* J. Dewey, and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XVI, pp. 325-335. 
H. Siclgwick, Practical Morals^ 




No effective study of duties and rights is possible, we 
have maintained, except in connection with the particular 
institutions of society with which they are functionally re- 
lated. To formulate tables of rights and duties in the ab- 
stract, without reference to specific institutions of society 
and specific stages of social development, has a certain 
value; it gives us a total view of the moral life of the indi- 
vidual and of the moral order of which he is a part. But we 
cannot go far in determining specifically, either what we 
ought to have or ought to do, until we study the institutions 
which they presuppose and with which they are teleologically 

There are, we have seen, human rights or claims con- 
nected with all the values which make up the system of 
human ends, covered by the term total self-realization. 
Rights and duties being strictly correlative, there are also 
duties directly connected with all these values, embodied in 
law and the legal system; they are also all to a degree insti- 
tutionalized. Of all the forms of life, however, that have 
become thus institutionalized and legalized, there are two 
which, from every point of view, may be said to be funda- 
mental. These are the economic life and the life of sex, or 
the institutions of Property and the Family. They are 
fundamental from two important aspects. 

In the first place, from the standpoint of the individual, 
the business of getting a living, of marriage and the raising 
of a family are, normally at least, the basal functions and 



the indispensable conditions of the securing and developing 
of all other values. From the social point of view, on the 
other hand, they are the first "instincts/ 7 or functions, to be 
socialized and institutionalized; and about them crystalize 
first the customs or mores of primitive societies, and later 
the laws of civilized states. The mores of property and the 
family are basal in all tribal life, and the laws of property 
and of the family are probably the most constant and un- 
changing in the civilized life of man. 1 


Emphasis upon the ethics of the economic life is the out- 
standing characteristic of the moral thinking of the last half 
century. This has been due in part to causes that in a sense 
lie outside the sphere of moral science as such. There has 
been, on the one hand, an enormous development of eco- 
nomic activity, out of all proportion to the growth of the 
other sides of human life. The tremendous speeding up of 
the processes of production, the unheard of accumulation of 
wealth, have inevitably resulted in giving the values of 
wealth a privileged position in the scale of human goods. On 
the other hand, the novel methods of production, and the 
development of the capitalistic system which they necessi- 
tated, have led to the concentration of capital, to the devel- 
opment of new forms and new conceptions of property, and 
to entirely new problems of distributive justice and of prop- 
erty rights. 

Criticism of the competitive and capitalistic system has 
been the outstanding feature of recent decades. Much of this 

1 "Property, marriage and religion are the most primary institutions. They 
began in folkways. They became customs. They developed into mores by 
the addition of some philosophy of welfare, however crude. Then they were 
made more definite and specific as regards the rules, the prescribed acts, 
and the apparatus to be employed. This produced a structure and the in- 
stitution was complete." Sumner, op. cit. p. 54. See also W. II Rivers 
Social Organization, p. 5. 


criticism has been from a purely economic point of view, but 
a large part, and in the last analysis the most significant 
part, has been from the standpoint of ethics. From the eco- 
nomic point of view, it has been criticized for its wasteful- 
ness, for inefficiency both in production and distribution, 
and is even held, by Karl Marx and many since him, to be 
essentially self-defeating economically and destined to pass 
over into another economic system. From the ethical point 
of view, on the other hand, it has been chiefly criticized as 
the fruitful parent of unethical business practices, as tend- 
ing to reward and give approval to only the lowest of moral 
qualities or virtues, of involving the suppression of per- 
sonality, and the denial among the masses of opportunity to 
develop to the full their intellectual, ethical, and esthetic 

These causes would have, in themselves, been sufficient 
to bring about the present emphasis on economic morality. 
But there were also changes in ethical thought which tended 
to bring the economic life of man into the foreground. The 
temper of ethics has become increasingly realistic and scien- 
tific in the sense that it considers, not only what men ought 
to do, but also what they can do in a given situation. It not 
only recognizes that the bodily values and therefore the 
economic goods instrumental to them are basal, the indis- 
pensable conditions of all other values; but it recognizes 
also that when these are lacking, the "higher " values are 
impossible or at least increasingly difficult of realization. 
Moral statistics show us, for instance, that desertion of 
wives among the laboring classes varies with good and bad 
times, that there is a connection between prostitution and 
low wages among women workers. 

Facts of this sort do not necessarily mean "economic de- 
terminism" or necessarily imply lack of freedom in the 
individual case. Statistics have reference only to aggregate 
regularity and this regularity is combined with individual 


irregularity; from statistical trends no inference can be 
drawn regarding the individual case. What such facts do 
make clear to us is, that ethical problems cannot be sepa- 
rated from economic. The moral life is not lived in an eco- 
nomic vacuum. 


The term "economic life," as we have used it in the pre- 
ceding paragraphs, may best be defined in terms of the 
recognized fundamental processes of economics. These are 
production, distribution, and consumption. Production of 
what are called the necessaries and the luxuries of life, their 
distribution among those who make up an economic com- 
munity, whether conceived of as local or world-wide, and 
finally the consumption of these goods by the economic com- 
munity, by the producers themselves or by others if the 
community contains non-producing classes. 

From the ethical point of view, rights and duties are con- 
nected with all phases of the economic process or the eco- 
nomic life. The producer, whether conceived of as the 
manual laborer or the entrepreneur, has certain rights grow- 
ing out of his function as a producer, and certain duties 
correlative with his rights. Roughly speaking a man has a 
right to the fruits of his labor, however difficult it may be 
to determine the nature of that right in a complex economic 
order. Ethically there are right and wrong ways of distribu- 
tion. One of the chief problems of justice, we have seen, is 
that of the just distribution of the goods of life. Finally, con- 
sumption has its ethical side also. Consumption may be 
wasteful, both from the economic point of view of produc- 
tion and from a more social and ethical point of view which 
takes in the larger ends of life. It may also be vicious, not only 
in the sense that it is conducive to the weakening of what 
are called conventionally virtuous habits, but also in the 
sense that it is inimical to the ends of society itself. 


There are, then, ethical aspects to all three phases of the 
economic process. In exploring the rights and duties of 
the economic life we might then naturally and logically pro- 
ceed by considering them under these three heads. This is 
the method followed by J. A. Hobson in his Work and 
Wealth, a book which could be read with great profit in con- 
nection with the discussions of this chapter. A simpler and 
more satisfactory procedure for us is to consider these same 
problems in connection with the institution of property. For 
one thing, our present economic life (or system, as it is 
called) is bound up with the institution of private property 
and presupposses it. It is, of course, abstractedly conceiv- 
able that the institution of private property is itself in- 
herently wrong and may ultimately be abolished, but rights 
and duties are relative and functional relative to the insti- 
tutions of society and economic life, as we know it, is bound 
up with the institution of private property. 


From the purely economic point of view, wealth is the 
central conception. Wealth is a general term for anything 
that satisfies a human want directly, or may be used in the 
production of anything that satisfies wants. It is sometimes 
defined as the sum total of consumable goods. As such, it is 
a good or value, although, as we have seen, instrumental and 
not intrinsic. It is natural to infer that the same value that 
belongs to wealth applies also to property, for all wealth is 
possessed by some one or some group. The sum total of 
property would then be identical with the sum total of 

It is generally recognized, however, that the value of 
property cannot be directly inferred from the value of 
wealth. Wealth means enjoyment of goods and satisfaction 
of wants. Property means the title to the exclusive use or 


possession of goods. Thus, things may be privately owned 
and privately used, publicly owned and publicly used, or 
privately owned and publicly used. The value of wealth may 
be to a large extent determined by the way it is owned. It 
is possible that the increase of private property may involve 
increasing exclusion of part of the community from wealth, 
although the owners of the property may be increasing their 
own enjoyments. The wealth of a community is by no means 
equal to the sum of its private property. From the ethical 
point of view, the problems of the ethics of the economic life 
revolve about the institution of property. 


It is accordingly with the principle or institution of pri- 
vate property that we are primarily and chiefly concerned. 
The fact that it is not self-evidently a good, but for many 
minds is perhaps the chief of evils bringing with it a whole 
chain or system of moral and social evils has always re- 
quired, in the days of Plato no less than of Karl Marx, that 
the entire basis of property right should be examined. So 
far as the institution of private property as it functions 
today is concerned, it may be defined as follows: It is the 
instinct of acquisition, functioning in a social individual, in 
a social medium, with social consent. 

From this definition we may pass directly to the legal def- 
inition. The right to private property is the right to call upon 
the organized force of society to prevent unauthorized per- 
sons from enjoying certain commodities. Ownership, there- 
fore, includes the specific rights and titles that are protected 
by the above sanction. The essence of this legal right "lies 
not so much in the enjoyment of the thing as in the legal 
power of excluding others from interfering with such enjoy- 
ment." J 

'Holland, Jurisprudence, Chap. XI, p. 61. 



There are those who think that by going back to the 
origins of the institution of property we can find grounds 
either for its justification or condemnation. The fallacious 
character of this idea as a general principle has been pointed 
out in several connections. If we should go to the animals 
for hints as to how to live our lives, we should all be com- 
munists. One reason why Walt Whitman likes the animals 
is that "they do not have the mania for owning things." 
Similarly, if we should go to primitive peoples for our norms 
we might all be communists, but it would be a communism 
of poverty, for there can be little doubt that, whatever else 
it has and has not done, private ownership has done much 
to produce the goods upon which men live. On the other 
hand, it is just as fallacious to appeal to a primitive "in- 
stinct" or primitive ownership to justify private property 
today. Whether there is or is not an instinctive basis for 
private ownership, we know that instincts are to a large de- 
gree modifiable, and we know also that the origin of a thing 
has nothing to do with its present value. The study of the 
history of an institution serves as a basis neither for its con- 
demnation nor approbation, but merely for its under- 

The first forms of property are lost in the mist that en- 
velops the beginnings of the human race. The classical 
dogma of universal primitive communism is now generally 
abandoned. It is probable that there has always been, even in 
the most rudimentary societies, some recognition of private 
ownership, but it has been limited to personal property of 
the more intimate kind that which is a part, or extension, 
of one's own body. One's bodily covering and ornament, 
one's weapons and one's tools, which are but artificial ex- 
tensions of one's hands and often one's woman and the 
fruit of one's body have been felt to be one's own, one's 


proprium. But this feeling of ownership rarely, if ever, ex- 
tends to the means of subsistence, or to the land on which 
the primitive tribe or horde roams, and from which it gets 
its living. The right to subsistence is, as Westermarck tells 
us, recognized in some measure in all primitive societies. 
Among the Eskimos about Behring Strait and among the 
Greenlanders, there exist at the present day customs that 
specifically recognize this right. 

The forms of property among primitives are, then, exceed- 
ingly variable and irregular. Generalizations regarding uni- 
formities in the development of the institution are also diffi- 
cult and dangerous to make. So far as we can see, however, 
it is likely that private property in land is the first form of 
private ownership to receive assured recognition. The 
Solonian code, for instance, does not recognize personal 
property as a permanent possession and is at pains to mini- 
mize the obligations connected with it; while, on the other 
hand, it is much concerned for the protection and mainte- 
nance of property in land. It is probable that property in 
land, at least on any large scale, arose out of conquest of 
one tribe over another. Land assigned to individual families, 
gradually passes over into independent possession. On the 
other hand, portions of land are assigned to servants or 
bondsmen, and this feudal tenure also gradually passes over 
into independent ownership. 

The ancient world was essentially agricultural, and prop- 
erty in land was the form of private property to receive 
the chief attention in law. But this ancient world itself saw 
the gradual rise of a new form of personal property whose 
growth was closely bound up with the distinction of classes, 
and more especially with the formation of a class of free 
artisans namely private capital. Private capital the sur- 
plus of the products of labor, laid up in money or some 
other means of exchange then attained to more and more 
importance. Roman law in particular was largely occupied 


with measures for its recognition and protection, and sec- 
ondarily also for the prevention of its abuse. 

These two forms of property, land and private capital, 
continued under approximately equal conditions of legal 
protection. But it was not until quite recent times that 
capital attained its outstanding importance. With the in- 
dustrial revolution of the eighteenth century, came a com- 
plete shift in the center of value of property, attended by the 
most wide-reaching ethical consequences. The rise of modern 
capital is one of those "new occasions'' which bring with 
them new problems of duty and of right. 


The history of the institution of private property can, in 
itself, throw no light on the question of its ethical value 
or validity. But it brings into high relief two aspects of the 
institution that cannot be ignored in any attempt to under- 
stand it. The first of these is the changing character of the 
institution. True, there has always been some kind of private 
property, but the particular things that may be privately 
owned have greatly changed. They have greatly changed 
in the past and, for all that we can see, may be expected 
to change in the future. The right of property is in this sense 
relative and functional functional to the state of develop- 
ment of society. 

In the second place, as the things that may be privately 
owned have greatly changed, so also have changed our ideas 
of the meaning and value of ownership. In primitive times 
the feeling of ownership, in the sense that the object or 
proprium is a part of one's self, was confined to a man's most 
intimate personal possessions, and did not extend to the 
things that he used in common with the rest of the tribe. 
In later times this same feeling of ownership was merged 
with the feeling of family. It is only in the latest times 


that the feeling of personal possession has been extended 
to great tracts of land and to accumulations of capital. In 
the earlier stages of the development of the institution of 
property, the characteristic conception was that of property 
for use. It is only on the latest stages that the notion of 
property for power, always associated more or less with 
ownership, has, with the development of capital, extended 
itself to monstrous proportions and, to some degree at least, 
taken the place of earlier feelings and conceptions. 


This notion of the changing conception of property right 
leads us naturally to the entire question of the validity of 
private property, or the ethical basis of property right. 

The most popular notion is still the so-called Labor 
Theory. According to this view, it is human labor that alone 
creates utilities or usable objects. Nature provides us with 
potential good, but some measure of labor is necessary to 
make this good available to man. The labor theory is essen- 
tially intuitional in principle. The small boy who pulls a 
string of fish out of the river feels that they are his. His 
effort has given him an inherent right to the products of 
that effort. The classical expression of this theory (for Eng- 
lish-speaking thought at least) is that of John Locke. He 
held that under primitive conditions a man can acquire a 
property right by appropriating goods of which no one has 
possession and "mixing them with his own labor." Thus a 
savage could collect some acorns or fruits in the woods 
and they would rightfully be^his property. Locke, to be sure, 
thought of property only as property for use and was in- 
clined to deny the right of the savage if he appropriated 
more than he could use. This is the feeling and theory that 
underlies the practice of primitive communities and found 
expression partly in our own earlier homestead laws. It was 


the feeling also that underlay, as we saw, the appeal of 
the squatters to "Nature, God and Country/' in the episode 
of early California life. 

It is important to recognize that this formalistic and 
intuitionist view of property right is not associated neces- 
sarily with either a conservative or a radical view of private 
property. Both individualists and collectivists have appealed 
to it as the major premise of their arguments. The Marxian 
economic system, for instance, is built upon two definite 
foundations. On the one hand, it is an amplification of the 
labor theory of value which, from its first faint beginnings 
in Locke, had become, in the hands of Adam Smith and 
Ricardo, the base of classical economics. On the other hand, 
it is an argument that surplus values, really due to labor 
power, are "stolen" from the latter by the capitalist. 

The individualist of course finds this labor theory of 
property right congenial and often appeals to it as a last 
resort to establish the inviolable nature of property right. 
He finds it extremely difficult, however, to apply it to the 
complex conditions of the property system of today. In 
fact, he cannot do it at all without calling into play an 
auxiliary theory of "inherited desert/' the untenability of 
which we have seen in Chapter X. The reductio ad absur- 
dum of this entire theory may be seen in the remarkable 
words of Henry George in his Progress and Poverty. 
"Nature gives wealth to labor. She fills the sails of the 
pirate as well as of the merchantman or missionary bark. 
. . . The laws of nature are the decrees of the creator." 
In other words, it would appear that the pirate, in virtue 
of his hard labor, has as good a right to the proceeds of 
his toil as the merchantman or the missionary. It is not 
surprising that in view of the difficulties of this theory, 
individualists tend to fall back on the purely legal concep- 
tion of occupancy, or on the purely pragmatic notion that 
nrivate nronertv is economically best. 


The socialist or collectivist who appeals to this principle 
escapes these difficulties, of course. He attacks the whole 
idea of inherited desert. He insists that the major part of 
wealth is socially created and constitutes therefore an "un- 
earned increment" which individuals have not created. But 
the labor theory creates difficulties for him also, of another 
sort. These difficulties appear in the Marxian theory of 
value. If labor alone creates values, and therefore on the 
"labor theory" determines the right to these values, Marx 
was compelled to deny that profit results from the capital- 
ist who lends money and the trader who conducts the proc- 
esses of exchange. As an economic theory, it was unable 
to explain value in the sense of price. Economists have in 
general united to reject Marx's views. In any case, the 
labor theory is at best an ethical rather than an economic 
truth and it is from this standpoint that we must here 
view it. 


Unless one takes the formalistic view of right the only 
justification of the right to private property is to be found 
in its instrumental or teleological value. Wealth, of which 
property is a specific form, has itself only instrumental 
value, and property shares that character. In our criticism 
of Kantian formalism we found that it is true that we can- 
not conceive the act of stealing as universalized, but only 
if we assume the institution of private property to be a 
good, to be the indispensable condition of the good life. 

Teleological theories of property right may be utilitarian 
in the narrower sense. From the economic point of view, 
it is argued that the motive of acquisition and the institu- 
tion of private ownership alone make possible that indi- 
vidual initiative necessary to maintain production on a level 
sufficient, not merely to make possible economic progress, 
but even to assure a supply of goods necessary for human 


well being. But they may also include in their conception 
of utility "higher" values of a more distinctly ethical char- 
acter. From this point of view the chief values of private 
ownership are generally recognized as two. We may de- 
scribe them as the value of security and of self-realization. 

The labor theory makes much of both of these motives 
and values. It points to the need of security that lies back 
of the instinct and activities of acquisition. Even in the 
animal world is to be found a certain elemental foresight 
which leads to the storing up, as in the case of the squirrel, 
of food for future use. In human society this same instinct 
or desire for security persists, greatly modified and devel- 
oped through conscious intelligence, to include not only 
security for one's life as a whole, but for one's offspring, 
through customs and laws of inheritance. The ethical value 
of such security, in freeing the self from the hand to mouth 
existence so inimical to its higher development, and the 
moralizing character of ownership in developing responsi- 
bility, through giving the individual "a stake in the com- 
munity," need no special emphasis. 

The ethical value of economic security, is then the pri- 
mary value of the institution of private property. It is not 
to be denied that "ethical equivalents" for physical pos- 
session are possible, in the development of more stable wage 
systems and in various forms of insurance against the 
changes and chances of this mortal life. It cannot be denied 
that the ethical value, in this sense, of private property is 
not bound up with specific forms of property right. But 
the fact remains that private property has had an im- 
portant moralizing function in the past and, so far as we 
can see, will continue to exercise that function in the future. 

But a further ethical value is to be found in the values 
of self-realization, bound up with the acquisition and manip- 
ulation of property. This too, the labor theory has always 
emphasized. It has pointed out that the acquisitive in- 


stinct is deeply rooted even in the animal life. The bird 
claims the nest, and even the whole tree as his own, and the 
dog guards his kennel with his life. The labor or effort put 
into acquisition is itself a moralizing function, and the 
identification of the product of one's effort with one's per- 
sonality expands and heightens one's self-realization. 

The reality of these values cannot be denied. It is true 
that here also higher ethical equivalents may be found for 
this primitive form of self-realization. The opponent of the 
institution of private property meets this argument for its 
value by insisting (rightly to a degree) that, while self- 
affirmation will always be a part of the nature of man, 
affirmation and expression of the self through acquisition 
are conditioned by the specific life in which we live, and 
could be conceivably turned into other channels. He points 
out that certain classes of men work for wholly other mo- 
tives than those of profit and that acquisition of property 
has no place in their scheme of the good life. 

All this is true. There is no inherent reason why acqui- 
sition of property should remain a necessary condition of 
the moral life of man. Even if the acquisitive impulse is 
an instinct, instincts are modifiable, and there is no in- 
herent reason why human nature should not be greatly 
changed in this respect. The fact still remains that for the 
great masses of men acquisition is one of the chief sources 
of self-realization and one of the chief moralizing influences. 
Until we actually find ethical equivalents for the acknowl- 
edged values of property right, that right is likely to re- 
main, in some form, the indispensable condition of self- 


The ethical value of security is associated with the 
notion of property for use, that of self-realization with 
the notion of property for power. Property for use is un- 


doubtedly the fundamental conception; for property, like 
all economic goods, has only instrumental value. On the 
other hand, property for power can scarcely be excluded 
completely from any adequate theory of property right. 

The will to power in man is part of the fundamental will 
to life itself, and it is inevitable that it shall express itself 
in connection with every form of life. To this property is 
no exception. But after all, the primary function of property 
is for use. As an indispensable condition of life itself, to 
say nothing of the good life, the moral sense rightly feels 
that to play with property as with counters in a game, for 
the realization of one's own sense of power, is essentially 
immoral. The importance of this distinction between prop- 
erty for use and property for power has become even greater 
with the tremendous accumulations of capital of the modern 
world, and their concentration in a few hands, often in the 
hands of a single individual. It has been pointed out that 
it is doubtful whether any individual should have the right 
to the control of such fortunes as are characteristic of the 
present, because no man has the imagination to penetrate 
to the real meaning for others of the millions or billions 
which he controls the effort and labor they stand for, and 
the consequences for good or ill, often for life and death, 
on the millions of selves which this property represents. 
It is often maintained, as against Marx's prediction of 
the growing concentration of capital, that with the increase 
of capital there is a corresponding widening of the circle 
of small shareholders. But that is to forget what many 
economic students have recently pointed out, namely that, 
although the circle of ownership is widened, the power of 
control is more and more centralized in a few hands. In 
any case, it is obviously at this point of property for power 
that the chief limitations of property right must in the 
future be made. 



Reflection upon the real basis of property right, and its 
essentially functional and instrumental character, enables 
us to see the true meaning of what is called the sacredness 
of private property and of property rights. Such respect as 
the institution may demand of us arises from no intrinsic 
quality in property itself, but solely and entirely out of its 
teleological relation to the ethical end. 

Jaures, the great French socialist once said: "You speak 
of the sacredness of property. We must first know what 
property you mean." Inhere is no inherent sacredness in 
property, and some forms of property do not rightly de- 
mand our respect. Property in slaves does not call forth 
our respect because we now see that there can be no valid 
private property in human beings. The things that may be 
privately owned have actually greatly changed in the past 
and may conceivably, and in all probability will, greatly 
change in the future. Some forms of property now are, 
as such, not worthy of respect. If we respect them at all, it 
is only because, for the time being, they are still conserved 
by law, and share in that respect which the institution of 
law as such demands. 


The acceptance of a teleological theory of property right, 
and the expression of that theory in terms of self-realiza- 
tion, leads naturally to the idea that it is possible to formu- 
late certain general principles to determine our interpreta- 
tion of its rights and duties. This is, I think, possible, and I 
shall attempt such a formulation. They would, I think, as 
principles in general be acknowledged. 

Every member of society, it would generally be admitted, 
has a right to share in the values of society. In so far as 


the enjoyment of economic good is an indispensable condi- 
tion of the realization of these values, the right to share 
in that good, in some way, is implicit in the moral ideal. 
Economic goods, it is true, cannot directly purchase either 
"virtue" or "happiness," but both virtue and happiness 
depend upon them to a much greater degree than people 
like to admit. In spite of the fact that the "higher" values 
of life cannot be directly and immediately procured by 
wealth alone, it is none the less true that in modern civiliza- 
tion all other values are indirectly dependent upon it. The 
increasing recognition of these facts has given rise to the 
principle or norm described, a norm which is not only an 
ideal, but also a fact, in the very important sense that it 
is widely operative in the social and political activity of 
the time. 

The general acknowledgment of this norm has also re- 
sulted in a wide-spread dissatisfaction with all forms of 
private ownership that make its realization impossible. So 
keenly is this dissatisfaction felt that it has found expres- 
sion in two wage theories called respectively the "vagabond 
wage" and the "minimum wage." The wage system, it 
must be remembered, is the form in which a large part of 
the wealth of society is distributed in our modern economic 
process, and wage thus becomes a form in which this wealth 
is privately appropriated and owned. 

The idea of the vagabond wage is an extreme expres- 
sion of the norm that every member of society has a right 
to share in the economic values of society. It expresses the 
belief in the inherent right of the individual thus to share, 
irrespective of any contribution to society whatsoever. 
Formulated by anarchistic communism, especially by Kro- 
potkin, it is nevertheless seriously considered by certain 
social thinkers, of whom Bertrand Russell may be taken 
as an example. In a sense it is a revival of the principle of the 
right to subsistence, as more or less recognized in primitive 


societies. It proposes that the fundamental necessaries of life 
shall be available to all in the way in which water is avail- 
able at present. To most minds it seems a wholly fantastic 
conception, impossible of realization both on account of 
the physical conditions of production and the psychological 
nature of man in short the niggardliness of nature and 
the natural laziness of men. Arguments of more or less 
weight have been developed to meet these objections, argu- 
ments into which we cannot go at this point. 1 From the 
purely ethical point of view, the objections are obvious. 
If rights and duties are correlative and it seems impossible 
to take any other view then a right to share in the eco- 
nomic goods of society would seem to imply a correspond- 
ing obligation to contribute to the goods of society directly 
or indirectly. The old maxim, "if a man will not work, 
neither shall he eat," is not lived up to in our competitive 
and capitalistic civilization, but that does not prevent it 
from being normative in both thought and conduct. Social- 
ist thinkers accept the principle, and while they acknowl- 
edge the norm of the right to subsistence, they also insist 
upon the obligation to labor. 

Of quite another character is the principle of the mini- 
mum wage. This principle assumes as the condition of 
the right to subsistence the obligation to contribute to pro- 
duction. But it also insists that the degree to which com- 
modities are shared shall not be determined by the law 
of supply and demand alone, but by the necessities of a 
decent standard of living. This idea of the minimum wage 
has been discussed under the head of the rights of labor. 
In this connection we shall simply call attention to certain 
facts that bring out its character as a norm in present-day 
ethical thinking and conduct. The principle itself is up- 
held by conservative and radical thinkers alike. It is, for 

x See Bertrand Russell, Proposed Roads to Freedom, Chap. IV. 


instance, the first principle of the British Labor Party in 
its official platform l and is the goal of much of the activity 
of the entire labor union movement. But it is also, on the 
other hand, a basal principle in the Papal Encyclical on 
Labor, which is the authoritative basis both for thought 
and conduct in the Roman Catholic Church. 2 

The second ethical norm in connection with wealth and 
property is the principle that personality shall always be 
put above property the values of the person above the 
values of property. This principle springs indeed from the 
intrinsic relations of values as determined by the laws of 
value themselves. 3 But it is historically the product of the 
growing emphasis on personality in modern life. 

This second norm is no less generally recognized than 
the first, and its increasing acknowledgment is reflected 
in the legislative enactments of all modern states. The 
major part of recent social legislation expresses this norm. 
Laws regulating age and sex of labor, and the hours and 
conditions under which labor shall be carried on, have in- 
deed their social aspect. One of the chief forces leading 
to the extensive social legislation in Great Britain under 
Lloyd George, was the discovery and recognition of the 
frightful physical and mental deterioration of great classes 
of British workmen, as discovered in connection with the 
recruiting for the Boer War. But underneath it all was a 
deliberate recognition that rights of the person outweighed 
rights of property, and if already existing rights of property 
had to suffer, suffer they should. The same principle finds 
expression in international law. Violation of the rights of 
property of our nationals by the British government in the 
World War, called forth our expostulation. But the viola- 

1 Chapter IX, pp. 204 f . 

2 J. A. Ryan, The Church and Labor y in which the Encyclical is to be 

3 Chapter VIII, pp. 170 ff. 


tion of rights of life and person, through the sinking of 
the Lusitania, was immediately recognized as on another 
level, and constituted our chief ground for declaration of 
war against Germany. 

There is a third norm of the economic life which there 
will be some disposition to dispute, perhaps, but only, I 
think, when it is not understood. It is that acquisition and 
accumulation of property or wealth should not be ultimately 
and permanently separated from the functions of consump- 
tion with which they are normally related. The normal func- 
tion of wealth and property is instrumental, and when the 
production of wealth and the acquisition of property become 
ends in themselves, they tend to become self-defeating, as 
do any activities that involve the vicious abstraction of 
turning means into ends. 

The violation of this norm in the individual life takes 
two forms apparently quite different on the surface, but 
in reality closely related the vice of the miser and the 
vice of property for power. The virtue of thrift is func- 
tionally of great importance, both for the values of security 
in the individual life and for the accumulation of the means 
of production in the larger life of an economic society. 
Miserliness is excess or hypertrophy of that virtue. The 
acquisition of property is a means, though perhaps a lower 
means, of self-realization. The pursuit of the power of 
wealth for its own sake is again a case of hypertrophy in 
a quality or disposition not without its instrumental value. 
The miser is oblivious to the consumatory value of the 
riches he piles up unused. The man who seeks wealth for 
the power it gives him, is insensitive to what the wealth he 
manipulates represents in potentialities of good or ill for 
his fellow men. 

The violations of this norm in the individual life have 
always been recognized and their immoral character under- 
stood. More important still is the fact that this norm is 


increasingly recognized in our judgments upon the economic 
life of society as a whole. Moralists and publicists unite in 
stigmatizing modern capitalistic societies in which produc- 
tion for its own sake has become the primary and over- 
mastering motive. Decades ago Carlyle described his own 
period as one in which "things are in the saddle and ride 
mankind. " In more recent years, Tawney has described 
our present economic order as an acquisitive society and 
speaks of the "sickness of an acquisitive society." Hyper- 
trophy of any function in an organism, as for instance in 
the human body, may mean abnormality; and over-develop- 
ment of the acquisitive instinct in a society undoubtedly 
brings in its train evils which society must in the end 


The foregoing principles or norms are, it can scarcely 
be doubted, increasingly recognized or acknowledged in 
modern societies. It is true that the economic life of man 
is full of monstrous violations of all of these principles, 
but the public conscience is increasingly sensitive to these 
violations. Any one who reflects upon the discussions con- 
stantly carried on in the industrial life of the present day 
cannot fail to be aware that these norms are assumed, 
either explicitly or implicitly. 

With the acknowledgment of these norms, there is like- 
wise an increasing recognition of certain rights and duties 
that spring from them. So far as the rights are concerned 
little need here be said. There is little disposition in modern 
societies, other than communistic, to impugn in principle 
the fundamental rights or claims that grow out of the 
ethical basis of property as already described, and which 
have been embodied in the law. The basal right to acquisi- 
tion of property and protection in its use, although no 
longer generally based upon conceptions of natural or in- 


herent right, is none the less still recognized as an in- 
dispensable condition of the best life. It is rather in the 
reinterpretation and in the limitation of this right that the 
working of these norms is seen. 

It can scarcely be doubted that the right to acquire and 
use property has been modified by the increasing recog- 
nition of all these norms. The principle of the minimum 
wage is slowly but surely passing from the status of a pious 
hope to that of an acknowledged claim. The "rights of 
consumers," as they have been called, are no longer merely 
a sentimental phrase. The principle of service to the con- 
sumer, of service instead of mere profit, although often 
exploited by men with their tongues in their cheeks, is 
none the less more and more recognized as a principle of 
"business ethics. 7 ' Considerable water has run under the 
bridges since the time when a head of the sugar trust 
could say, with any hope of general assent, "I don't give 
a damn for your ethics. My business is to make sugar and 
as much of it as possible/ 7 The change that has been going 
on is undoubtedly due partly to economic necessities of a 
very definite kind. As business organizations have become 
more and more national in scope, of the nature of institu- 
tions whose life will extend far beyond the lives of those 
by whom they are at present carried on, part of business 
policy becomes necessarily the securing and maintenence 
of "good will" that shall extend far beyond the life of a 
generation. But here, as elsewhere, the economic aspect 
is only one phase of the total situation. This change, of 
which there can be no reasonable doubt, is equally the 
result of a growing realization that in any rational economic 
order, production cannot be an end in itself, but must 
ultimately be subordinated to the primary ends of con- 

The point at which property rights have been most ob- 
viously and definitely modified by the normative conscious- 


ness of man is in connection with the principle of subordin- 
ation of property to personality. Limitation of property 
right has, to be sure, always been acknowledged. The right 
to do what one will with one's own, has always been 
limited by the principle that such use shall not interfere 
with the rights of others. But the claims of the person, 
as against vested property rights, are constantly more and 
more recognized both by public opinion and in law. Illus- 
trations of this fact are too numerous to mention. It must 
suffice to refer the student to the principle of modern law 
as described by Judge Cardozo in Chapter VIII. 

The readjustment of the notions of property right in the 
light of the growing ethical consciousness of men is one 
of the outstanding features of the present era. It is, how- 
ever, in the realm of duties that the greatest enlightenment 
and clarification has come. The principle of the correlative 
character of rights and duties (Chapter XI), although 
sometimes questioned when formulated to mean that 
wherever there is a duty there is a corresponding right, has 
been generally accepted as axiomatic in the sense that 
every right implies a duty. This axiom has in principle 
always been recognized in connection with the institution 
of private property. The present problem is to reinterpret 
this principle in the light of the changing forms and notions 
of property. 


The principle that rights imply duties has, so far as 
property is concerned, expressed itself in the following 
two norms of duty: (a) The possession or enjoyment of 
property presupposes activity of some kind; (b) the pos- 
session and enjoyment of property entails the obligation 
to use it for the common good. 

The first of these has been already considered in our 
discussion of the concept of the vagabond wage. Work of 


some kind, we found, is presupposed if enjoyment of the 
necessaries, to say nothing of the luxuries of life, is to be 
ethically justified. In a capitalistic society there are numer- 
ous and glaring exceptions to this rule. Expediency doubt- 
less requires that society should carry along a certain pro- 
portion of drones. The type of thinking that would argue 
for the forceful elimination of the non-workers and for a 
drastic reconstruction of society, in which all shall become 
proletarian workers over night, can commend itself only 
to a dogmatic Marxian. On the other hand, it is equally 
true that the fiction of inherited desert, on which the en- 
joyment of property without any corresponding activity 
can alone be justified, is becoming increasingly recognized 
for the fiction it is. An increasing discomfort of conscience, 
especially among the youth of the present day, is observ- 
able wherever there is enjoyment of wealth without cor- 
responding activity. In a highly complex society such ac- 
tivity may and must take many forms. Economic activity 
is not the only productive activity in any broadly human 
sense of the term. But some form of socially useful activity 
there must be. 

The second notion is in reality the very old and homely 
notion of stewardship. Under the dominance of religious 
conceptions the sense of duty is clear. "It is not my own 
hand that has gotten this wealth/' but "it is God that hath 
given the power 77 to get it. Such sanctions have been very 
powerful in the past and we have no means of knowing 
just how powerful they are today. But even in the case of 
those who are not influenced by such principles, there is 
still a conception of stewardship. It arises out of an in- 
creasing recognition of the principle of the "unearned in- 
crement." Enlightened economic insight makes it ever more 
clear that, under present conditions at least, a large part 
of the wealth acquired by any individual is socially created, 
and cannot in any intelligible sense be referred to the labor 


of the individual. It is on the basis of this conception that 
a large part of modern social legislation has been inaug- 
urated. But it is also the motive of the voluntary distri- 
bution of wealth in various ways which is a characteristic 
feature of the present day. 


The general principles that should control the production 
of wealth and its distribution, the acquisition of property 
and its use, are clear enough, if not wholly self-evident. It 
is when we come to the application of these principles to 
the particular problems of a complex economic and social 
structure that the difficulties arise. It is, as we say, a con- 
dition not a theory that faces us. The real problem is what 
I ought to do in the specific situation. This is, of course, 
merely an application with regard to a specific institution 
of the general problem of the place of rules in the moral 

It would manifestly be impossible to work out in detail 
particular problems of duty in the manifold relations and 
circumstances that constitute modern life. Instead, we shall 
suggest certain consequences that follow from the norms 
and principles above developed. 

Let us take as a concrete illustration the simplest of all 
rules in connection with the right of property: Thou shalt 
not steal. In a primitive economic society the distinction 
between mcum and tuum is simple and clear. The command- 
ment, thou shalt not steal, is not elaborated in the deca- 
logue: everyone knows what stealing is. The moral syl- 
logism gives us little trouble. To be sure, questions of 
casuistry arise on the simplest levels. Was the saint right 
in stealing leather from the rich to make shoes for the 
poor? Is a man justified in stealing a weapon in order to 
prevent murder or suicide? Although questions such as these 
may present disturbing problems to the conscience of the 


individual, they are nevertheless soluble in principle, and 
the principle on which their solution is to be sought is clear 
enough when we understand the nature of moral values and 
of the obligations that spring from them. The difficulty of 
applying moral rules really becomes serious only on a com- 
plex level of economic development when changing notions 
of property and property right throw us into confusion. 

The difficulty on a complex economic level is not with 
the principle that stealing is wrong, but rather with the 
question, just what constitutes stealing. To revert for a 
moment to our moral syllogism: 

Stealing is wrong, 

This act is a case of stealing, 

Therefore this act is wrong. 

The problem here is obviously whether the act is a case of 
stealing. A man, let us say, or a group of men, get control of 
the majority of the stock of a corporation and, by manipu- 
lation of the stock, make worthless the holdings of a large 
number of individuals who in good faith have invested 
their earnings in the stock. Certain practices of this sort 
are taken cognizance of by the law; others are not. To call 
such sharp practices stealing in any legal sense would be 
a misnomer. But from an ethical point of view there can 
be no question. In our society, as constituted, property is 
an indispensable condition of the moral life. To take that 
property, by whatever means, without an equivalent, or 
without due process of law, is stealing in any intelligible 
ethical sense of the word. It is a violation of the respect 
for property, which in the end goes back to a violation of 
respect for the person for whose self-realization his property 
is an indispensable condition. 

The necessity of thinking things through of passing 
from conventional conceptions, developed in earlier social 
conditions, to the actualities that lie back of them in short 


from appearance to reality is clearly illustrated in this 
particular problem. But the same kind of thinking is re- 
quired in connection with all the duties that arise out of 
the institution of property. Remterpretation of duty in the 
light of the changed conditions of our economic society, 
is imperative. As eternal vigilance is the price of freedom 
in the political field, so a similar vigilance is the price of 
welfare in the economic life of any modern people. There 
are many new obligations that have arisen in connection 
with property, but they may all be summed up under the 
one obligation "of being intelligent." 



* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. IV. 

* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chaps. XXII-XXV. 

* J. A. Hobson, Work and Wealth, etc. 
L. D. Edie, The New Economics. 

Sidney and Beatrice Webb, The Decay of Capitalist Society. 

B. Russell, Proposed Roads to Freedom. 

R. H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society. 

Richard C. Cabot, Adventures on the Borderland of Ethics. 


* C. Gore (editor), Property: Its Duties and Its Rights. (Con- 

taining chapters by various authorities on the origins, history 

and ethics of the institution of property.) 
Wester marck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. 
W. Wundt, Ethics, Vol. I. Principles of Morality, Part IV, 

Chap. I. 

John Locke, Two Treatises on Government, Vol. II, Chap. V. 
Jeremy Bentham, Principles of the Civil Code, Part I, Chaps. 


* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XXII. 

* B. Russell, Proposed Roads to Freedom, Chap. IV. 
A. J. Eddy, Property. 

J. H. Wigmore, (editor), Rational Basis oj Legal Institutions, 

Part II. 

G. C. Cox, The Public Conscience (under heading Property). 
H. Sidgwick, Elements of Politics, Chap. V. 
R. T. Ely, Property and Contract, Vol. I, Chap. VI. 



One's duties, one's obligations what one ought to do 
and what one ought to leave undone in all that pertains 
to the life of sex, have always constituted a central part of 
traditional ethics. That there is a right and wrong in these 
matters everyone recognizes, however that notion of right 
and wrong may vary with time and place, with social class 
and level of social development, with the disposition and 
attitude of individuals. 

The central place of these matters in the moral life and 
in ethical thinking is, of course, indicated by the fact that 
the terms moral and immoral, morality and immorality, are 
often identified exclusively with the special field of morals 
connected with the life of the sexes. According to a well- 
known law of language, terms which have a general sig- 
nificance may in time tend to be confined to one of their 
special meanings because of popular interest and impor- 
tance. That this has happened to the terms moral and im- 
moral is significant for moral theory as well as practice. It 
expresses the general recognition, on the part of common 
sense, of the central importance of the sex life, and its as- 
sociated activities, in the entire moral and social life of 
man; the degree to which the "happiness," welfare, and 
development of the individual depend upon what we call 
his sex life; and finally the degree to which the persistence, 
welfare, and progress, of the community depend upon the 
organization of that life in the family. 

This ancient wisdom has received extraordinary con- 



firmation in recent years by the developments in the sciences 
of biology and psychology. The general effect of these studies 
has been to increase our sense both of the depth of the 
sex instinct in the organic and psychical life, and of the ex- 
tent of its influence and ramifications in all the "higher" 
activities of man. With the development of eugenics, we 
have become aware of consequences of sex acts that far 
transcend the vision of earlier ages, and have become con- 
scious both of rights (of the unborn), and of duties (to 
posterity), that were undreamed of in the sex morality of 
our fathers. If such knowledge has not exactly created a 
"new decalogue of science/' as has sometimes been en- 
thusiastically suggested, it has at least transformed the old 
rights and duties in significant ways. With the developments 
of modern psychology, we have also become aware of con- 
sequences for the psychical life of the individual of which 
our ancestors had but the dimmest sense. Whatever may be 
said of the Freudian psychology of its manifest exaggera- 
tions and fantastic interpretations it cannot be denied 
that, aside from what it has contributed to the analysis 
and cure of neuroses, it has undoubtedly served in most 
minds to fix the idea of the central place of sex in the 
mental and spiritual life of man. The influence of Freud- 
ianism is undoubtedly waning, but it has left a residuum of 
insight which is probably a more or less permanent pos- 
session of modern man. 


Roughly speaking, the sex life begins with the ripening 
of the sex instinct at adolescence. The natural and, some 
would say normal, consequences of this ripening would be 
immediate intercourse between the sexes. With this inter- 
course, naturally, and again some would say normally, the 
child comes into being, and with its advent are quickened 
or intensified certain instincts or impulses which we de- 


scribe as maternal and paternal. The child in a sense be- 
comes the meaning and the center of the sex life, and about 
it there is developed and organized the life of the family. 

For our purposes it is immaterial whether we call the 
sex drive an instinct or an impulse. It is again immaterial 
whether what have been called traditionally the maternal 
and paternal instincts are innate in the same sense that 
sex itself is, or whether they are to a much larger degree 
conditioned by racial habit. The thing of real importance 
is that all these impulses are deeply enough rooted in the 
"organic" self of the average man and woman to make the 
sex life, as above denned, an inherent part of the life of 
the self as a whole, and the satisfaction of these impulses 
ordinarily the indispensable condition of complete self- 

We have described the sex life in its simplest and most 
elemental form. From the standpoint of ethics, and the 
study of human values in general, it is a great deal more 
than this. There are two main factors which have served, 
more than all others, to make the biological sex life some- 
thing very much more than biological. The first of these is 
the prolongation of human infancy, the second the deferring 
of the consummation of the sex impulse after the maturing 
of the sex instinct. 

The increasing prolongation of infancy in the human 
species modified the elemental sex life in two important 
ways. In the first place, it transmuted whatever there is of 
elemental parental instinct from a mere animal impulse, 
of relatively short duration, into something quite different 
into a permanent interest, and even passion, which is so 
much a part of the man or woman that it often becomes 
the center of life itself and, in any case, one of the chief 
functions through which the self is realized, or one of the 
main sources of human happiness. But the prolongation of 
human infancy has done something else. It has changed 


casual intercourse between man and woman, which among 
primitive men is little more than physical satisfaction, into 
an increasingly permanent relation in which, to the merely 
organic, are added hyper-organic values which develop out 
of the relations of persons. 

A second factor has greatly changed the elemental sex 
life. The increasing prolongation of the period between the 
maturing of the sex instinct and its consummation, neces- 
sitated by the growing complexities of the economic and 
social life, has changed both the nature of love and of its 
fulfillment. It would be truer to say that it has changed 
sex into love, for it transforms a passing impulse, which 
when casually satisfied is as casually forgotten, into desire, 
wish and finally will. What is in the beginning a non-selec- 
tive biological urge, becomes a human passion, in which 
the selection of the specific individual becomes part of the 
passion itself. In like manner, the fulfillment of sex desire 
is no longer possible by merely bodily gratification, but 
more and more requires the inclusion of values of associa- 
tion and of the person. This deferment of consummation 
may, to be sure, have its shadow sides, but for that reason 
has been, none the less, one of the chief factors in eliciting 
and developing the higher possibilities of love. 


Sex is not a recent discovery, however much it may seem 
such to the excited adventurer in modern literature and 
pseudo-science. Nevertheless, our recent emphasis on sex 
indeed our preference for the term as over against the old- 
fashioned word love is symptomatic of a certain change 
that has come over our thought on these matters. What 
has happened here is very much the same change in emphasis 
that we observed in our study of the economic life. 

The criticism of existing institutions of property has 


been paralleled by corresponding criticism of our institutions 
of marriage and for much the same reasons. Our increased 
consciousness of the biological and psychological facts of 
sex has brought about a certain "realism" in these matters. 
The moral life is not lived in a vacuum, and whether we 
think of moral values in terms of happiness or of self- 
realization, a satisfactory functioning of the sex life, with 
all that it includes, is more and more felt to be an indis- 
pensable condition of these values. 

The outstanding feature of this change of attitude is the 
growing conscious and frank recognition of sex as an in- 
dispensable condition of self-realization. The biological im- 
port of the instinct, its transcendent role in the propagation 
and perpetuation of the species, leads naturally to an un- 
derstanding of why this instinct should be so imperious in 
the organic life of the individual. With this has naturally 
come a franker acknowledgment of the physical side of 
sex life, more particularly on the part of women. In a re- 
cent article, based upon a questionnaire sent to women, 
"physical satisfaction" is frankly spoken of as one among 
others of the goods of marriage. 1 

The primary values of sex are then organic. As such they 
are also primarily instrumental. But they are not wholly 
so, as in the case of the economic values of property. Physi- 
cal satisfaction is a condition of other values, but it has 
an intrinsic value of its own. With these organic values, 
both instrumental and intrinsic, are then later associated 
hyper-organic values, chief among which are those of asso- 
ciation. In the article referred to, the need of "companion- 
ship" was equally stressed with the need of physical satis- 
faction. Among primitive peoples this aspect of the sex 
life was of little moment, partly because of the undeveloped 
character of personality, but even more, perhaps, because 

1 "Marriage ami Money," Harpers Magazine, August, 1928. 


of the extremely intimate character of the tribal bonds 
themselves. With the development of human individuality, 
the need of intimate personal association has increased. In 
modern society, with the essential loneliness of the great 
city, and the increasingly casual and impersonal relations 
of individuals, the need of the companionship of marriage 
and of the family is enhanced rather than diminished. The 
idea that "it is not good for man to live alone,' 7 that one 
sex is incomplete without the other, although often inter- 
preted in an extravagant way, is not without its basal 
element of psychological truth. 


To understand the full import of this position we must 
consider the relation of the sex life to the development of 
the personality of a man or woman. Its unique place as 
the central or integrating factor of personality is brought 
out in studies of adolescence. In general it may be said 
that, with the ripening of the instinct at this time, and the 
great physiological changes that mark its maturity, psych- 
ological changes of a far-reaching character occur. The 
adolescent, both boy and girl, finds his or her intellectual 
and emotional life extraordinarily quickened. It is a period 
of intense, often morbid, self-consciousness. The individual 
begins to be a person in a sense that the child was not. 

This coming to manhood or womanhood has been recog- 
nized by primitive peoples and past civilizations by special 
rites and cults. Associated as these rites often are with 
magical and superstitious beliefs, they nevertheless recog- 
nize, in their own way, the crucial character of this change 
of life, both for the individual and the race. In the modern 
world, love, marriage and the founding of a family are, nor- 
mally at least, the fundamental integrating factors in the 
life of both man and woman. 

These general considerations apply irrespective of the 


sex of the individuals concerned. But there are differences 
between men and women in these matters which it is im- 
portant to understand, not only from the standpoint of 
psychological insight, but from the normative point of view 
of ethics. The ancient wisdom of the race expressed this 
difference in the saying, that while with man love is an 
episode, with woman it is the whole of life. While doubtless 
an exaggeration, as such popular wisdom usually is, it is 
nevertheless true that sex life, in the broadest sense, is 
the integrating factor in the personality of women to a 
greater degree than in men. Merely biological functions 
necessitate that there shall be greater preoccupation on the 
part of woman with the organic aspects of the sex life it- 
self. With the advent of the child, part of the very body 
of the mother, there is an extension of the self to the child, 
and the child becomes the integrating factor of the mother's 
life. Not infrequently one might almost say normally 
the child to an extent takes the place of the husband, and 
the husband insensibly passes from the role of lover to that 
of father in the mind of the woman. 

The tendency in much of modern thought, to minimize 
the differences between men and women in their sex life 
and sex emotions, is as stupid as it is socially and morally 
misleading. In matters of this sort the ancient wisdom of 
the race is infinitely more trustworthy than the so-called 
findings of science. The attempt to explain fundamental 
differences of this sort by the theory that man has forced 
upon woman a stereotype of what the "womanly woman" 
is, is, in itself, singularly superficial. When, under the in- 
fluence of such notions, women seek to model themselves 
on some intellectual construction, the results are as tragic 
as they are ludicrous. As one woman critic of extreme 
feminism has said, "if only these feminists would let us 
women live," 

There are two considerations of importance that follow 


from these basal differences of sex life in man and woman. 
The first of these I shall describe as differences of attitude 
towards sex, the second differences of rights and obligations 
in the sex life. 

A difference in attitude is observable in many nuances 
of emotion. Mary Antin has called attention to the fact 
that women rarely find sex humorous in the way that men 
do. She is of the opinion and I think she is right that 
the life of sex is for woman too fundamental and serious 
to be easily made the subject of jokes and laughter, whereas 
for men, being more external to the person, it may be 
treated with lightness. 

Be that as it may, the obligation to integrity in the sex 
life is, normally at least, more fundamental to woman than 
to man. The age-old demand for chastity on the part of 
woman and to loyalty to the marriage bond, has indeed 
often been associated with purely external notions such as 
property and purchase. In so far as such notions linger, 
it is well that they should be finally dispelled. But there 
is a more inner truth to these ideas. They are ultimately 
founded upon two facts that no changes, short of a com- 
plete change in social institutions and in human nature, 
can fundamentally affect. The dependence of the integrity 
of the home upon the faithfulness of the mother is as great 
as ever, and nothing has happened to change the fact that 
the integration of the life of woman is normally bound up 
with her sex life. Disintegration of the sex life still means 
for woman disintegration of the person in a sense in which 
it cannot for men. This affords no basis of argument for 
a "double standard" in morals, but solely for the validity 
of the standard that the higher life of woman has made 


The sex functions and their exercise are often felt to 


be the most personal and private of all the capacities of 
man and, in the view of some extremists, are held to con- 
cern only the individuals directly involved. In so far as 
this refers to the decent privacy with which enlightened 
civilizations have in the main surrounded the sexual act, 
such feeling is rooted in and sanctioned by the deepest 
experiences of the race. On the other hand, to speak of the 
sex life as a matter which concerns no one but the in- 
dividuals immediately involved, is to utter a nonsense which 
no one but the most superficial could be guilty of. In these 
matters, more perhaps than in any others, it is true that 
"no man liveth unto himself alone," and modern biological 
and social science has but emphasized this ancient truth. 

It follows that in the main sex morals are identical with 
the morals of the family, or at least are relative and func- 
tional to that institution. From this point of view we may 
define the institution of the family in the following way. 
It is the sex instinct functioning in a social individual, in 
a social medium, and with social consent. In other terms, 
it is a more or less permanent union of the sexes sanctioned 
by the community. The earliest sanction is little more than 
a vague general approbation. Later sanctions have explicit 
legal expression and assume the form of severe penalties 
for disobedience of legal prohibitions. From the legal point 
of view, marriage is now a contract between one man and 
one woman, with at least the expectation of permanency. 
Slowly and by many tentative experiments, society has ar- 
rived at monogamous marriage of individuals, within the 
first and second degrees of consanguinity, by prohibiting 
successively, incest, polyandry, polygamy and bigamy. The 
marriage laws of Europe and America are the products of 
three main sources, Roman Law, the Christian religion, and 
Teutonic custom, all three uniting in sanctioning the norm 
of the permanent monogamous family. 



The story of human marriage is one of the most fascinat- 
ing chapters in the history of morals. The curious customs 
associated with it, the various tabus which from the begin- 
ning have regulated the intercourse of the sexes, the mixture 
of the superstitious and the magical with obviously utili- 
tarian provisions, are the sources of constant delight to the 

Nothing is really known of the origin of the family and 
of marriage. It is barely possible that the earliest form of 
sex association actually approached the wholly casual inter- 
course of animals and may be described as a state of agamy. 
But this hypothesis is at the present time generally dis- 
credited. A study of the social organization of the most 
primitive peoples on record, or available for observation, 
shows marriage institutions already existing that are most 
elaborate and relatively binding. Everywhere, even among 
the most savage peoples, there is regulation in some form 
of the union of males and females, and these regulations are 
rigorously maintained. 

It is generally held that the mother-family, or the ma- 
ternal type as it is called, antedates the paternal or patri- 
archal. "The mother at the fire-side, with the children issued 
from her body, was the settled part of society, and the insti- 
tutional growth began to form about her and her children 
not about the man, who was wandering, unstable, unregu- 
lated. Institutional development tended to integration and 
closer adjustment on the lines set for it by the facts of the 
case and the forces operating in it." l When one adds to this 
the fact that, among primitive peoples in general, the bio- 
logical role of the male in the propagation of the species is 
not understood, we have no difficulty in understanding the 

1 Sumner and Keller, The Science of Society, Vol. Ill, p. 1967. 


primacy of the maternal form and of the customs and feel- 
ings that gathered about it. 

Certain causes stepped in at a very early period to arrest 
the development of the mother-right and to replace it by 
the father-right. When once personal property had begun 
to be accumulated, it was inevitable that the husband, by 
virtue of superior strength and more active share in its 
acquisition, should take the upper hand. The extension of 
the idea of possession to wives and children is a natural 
accompaniment of the development of the notion of posses- 
sion or proprium itself. Such ideas were undoubtedly in- 
tensified and strengthened by the consequences of conquest 
in war. Just as through conquest changes in both the form 
and conception of property took place, so corresponding 
changes in the form and idea of the family followed. When 
one tribe or group conquered another, the land became the 
property of the victorious tribe, was often parceled out to 
chieftains, and became in this way family property. In like 
manner, the women and children were ordinarily spared 
and the women became part of the property and the family 
of the conquerors. 

In such fashion did the patriarchal polygamous family 
often arise. The manner in which the polygamous type 
passed over into the monogamous small family is so varied 
that no general laws can be laid down. Economic factors 
undoubtedly played a leading role. The large family, of 
great economic value in an agricultural polity, became of 
doubtful good, and often a positive detriment, under the 
conditions of mercantile and city life. But there were other 
causes at work. Very often a distinction gradually arose 
between the chief wife and the secondary wives and concu- 
bines. To the first or chief wife was accorded a special dig- 
nity and power, as head of the feminine side of the house- 
hold. At the same time a distinct difference in attitude, on 
the part of the man, towards the chief wife and the other 


feminine members of his household becomes apparent. The 
relations in the first case are more personal. Mutual rights 
and duties tend to take the place of the previous one-sided 
relation, and more and more the relation becomes ethicalized 
or spiritualized. 

Two facts must be kept in mind in understanding the 
primitive forms of the family, and in properly appreciating 
later forms and ideals that have developed out of them. 
Among primitive peoples, the family is always viewed from 
the standpoint of the tribe and always subordinated to it. 
It may be said without fear of misrepresentation that the 
tribal bonds are stronger than those of the family. Although 
there is no primitive life where some form of the family is 
not found, it can hardly be said that historically the family 
is the basal social institution. When it is so described 
and it may be properly so designated it is in a normative 
rather than in a descriptive sense that it should be under- 
stood. The basal character of the family has become more 
and more evident with the development of individuality. 
It has become increasingly the indispensable condition of 
the development of the ethical personality, with all that it 
implies, as we shall presently seek to show. The situation 
is here much the same as in the case of the doctrine of 
natural rights, already discussed in Chapter X. 

Of no less significance is the fact that in the beginning, 
and to a large extent throughout its history, the family is 
an economic institution. Among most primitive peoples 
marriage serves other functions in addition to the regula- 
tion of cohabitation. It is to a large extent an economic 
unity. Anthropologists find increasing evidence that among 
many peoples the living together of man and wife is pri- 
marily an economic arrangement, neither precluding sexual 
intercourse with others before, nor extra-matrimonial rela- 
tions after marriage. The varied forms of arrangement are 
too numerous to go into here, but such arrangements do not 


imply license in our modern sense; they have an element of 
decorum of their own. The important point is that the de- 
velopment of the family in general has involved the graft- 
ing upon a biological function and an economic unity, of 
other functions, as the increasing development of individ- 
uality and personality demands. 


The impression which the story of the human family 
makes upon the unbiased mind is, I think, not only one of 
change or evolution, but also of definite progress. We may 
see in the gradual emergence of the permanent monogamous 
family, not only a series of changes, conditioned and de- 
termined to a degree by economic changes (which it un- 
doubtedly is); but also a process in which the possibilities 
of meaning and value in the relations we call sexual have 
been more and more realized. Let us seek to determine the 
main lines of that progress. 

The biological basis and the conditioning economic fac- 
tors are of course everywhere in evidence. The maternal 
type and its mores are obviously formed about the idea of 
blood relationship, and clearly related to the economic con- 
ditions of primitive tribal life. The paternal type, with its 
basal idea of possession, is again, in part at least, the reflec- 
tion of economic conditions. In its polygamous form and 
patriarchal organization, it is a type adapted to an agricul- 
tural economy in which a large and compact household 
could carry on the business of life to the best advantage. 
On the other hand, economic necessity had much to do with 
the development of the monogamous out of the polygamous 
type. Possession of more than one wife becomes the privi- 
lege of wealth. Restriction to a single wife becomes the rule 
with the poorer classes. In recent times the practical dis- 
appearance of polygamy among Mohammedan peoples is 
partly traceable to such causes. 


In general it may be said that a kind of "natural," in 
the sense of circumstantial and unconscious selection, has 
had much to do with determining the primitive forms of 
the family and their corresponding mores. At the same 
time, it is just as true that conscious, rational selection, in 
the sense that we have defined it, 1 has been increasingly 
in evidence. Slowly, and by many tentative experiments, 
society has arrived at the norm of permanent monogamous 
marriage, by prohibiting successively variations from the 
norm. But this is only one aspect of the development. 
Corresponding to this more external process of selection, 
there has been a more inward development of the conscious- 
ness of the meaning and value of the sex relations them- 
selves, and of their relation to the good life of the individual 
and society. I shall describe this as the gradual spiritualiza- 
tion of the sex relation. 

By spiritualization we may understand here the gradual 
development and acknowledgment of the hyper-organic 
values. These are almost completely lacking in earlier forms 
of marriage. Contemporary primitives exhibit substantial 
unanimity in ignoring the "love interest/' or at least in 
subordinating it decisively to other considerations. There is 
frequently very little companionship between married cou- 
ples. Material, social, or tribal motives precede sentimental. 
In so far as the conjugal relation has become spiritualized 
it demands the realization of hyper-organic values. 

This general tendency or law shows itself at two specific 
points, namely in the spiritualization of two ideas which 
have been connected with the relation from the beginning 
the ideas of possession and of blood relationship. 

The latter idea is in all probability the more primitive. 
It is a universal view among primitive races, and one that 
continued into the heroic age of the civilized peoples, that 

1 Chap. V, pp. 104 f. 


the child is the child of its mother. In primitive societies 
of the maternal type, the child is not even dependent upon 
the father, but on the tribe. But even where the father is 
the ruling head of the family, though dependent upon him, 
the child is often not thought of as related by blood. These 
ideas are evidently due in the first case to ignorance of 
biological facts and suggested by the natural circumstances 
of birth and nourishment. Later the idea of blood relation- 
ship was modified by extension to both parents alike. With 
this extension there has come also a deepening of the notion. 
Such expressions as "blood is thicker than water" or "blood 
will tell", do not refer merely to the idea of biological inheri- 
tance, but include in their meanings that other kind of 
heredity we call social or traditional. The members of a 
family are of one blood which means that they share com- 
mon ideals, common loyalties and common ends. 

The second idea that has undergone this process called 
spiritualization is that of possession. The paternal or pa- 
triarchal type, from which our present institution derives, 
had as its basal idea a crude and material idea of posses- 
sion. Not only do customs of marriage by purchase and 
robbery testify to prevailing notions of this kind, but cus- 
toms of father-right, including right of life and death over 
wives and children, indicate clearly the nature of the orig- 
inal conceptions. But the idea of possession, like that of 
blood relationship, has undergone profound modifications. 
The moral elevation of both wife and children through de- 
velopment of ideas of individuality and personality, has 
resulted in a spiritualizing of the conception. The relation 
of possession has become mutual between husband and wife 
and the children are shared by both. The wife is now the 
husband's property only in the sense that her sympathies 
and interests are his. Reciprocal rights and duties have 
gradually taken the place of one-sided relations, and the 
phrase, "to have and to hold until death do us part," has a 


significance that far transcends earlier conceptions of 

The charge often brought against present-day laws and 
ideals governing marriage and the family that they are 
survivals of primitive notions of possession has a measure 
of truth. Mrs. Pankhurst, for instance, found that, accord- 
ing to the law of England in her time, she could not sign 
her child's school report, because it could be legally signed 
only by a parent or guardian, and the mother was not parent 
in the existent meaning of the term. This asymmetry of 
rights and duties made of her, it said, a suffragist, as it 
has frequently made revolutionaries; and ultimately, partly 
through the activities of the feminists, the law was changed. 
Galsworthy in his novel, A Man of Property, describes sur- 
vivals of the old notions in English life and thought, and 
many other novelists and play-wrights have done the same. 
It is a mistake to deny the primitive origin of many of our 
mores and notions concerning marriage and the family, but 
it is an even greater fallacy to suppose that, because of 
their origin, this is all they are and mean today. 

The spiritualization of marriage, as we have described 
it, is but a phase of a general tendency which may be de- 
scribed as the spiritual and ideal trend in institutions. As 
man's individual and social needs have become more devel- 
oped and refined, as they have become more and more con- 
trolled by reflection, and as groups have organized for their 
promotion, the functions of his institutions have become 
more spiritual and idealistic. 

Even those institutions growing out of man's instinctive 
wants show these tendencies. In the economic field, produc- 
tion tends to rise above the mere satisfaction of organic 
wants, and attempts to satisfy wants in a qualitative way. 
Political institutions, especially government, instead of 
being merely social devices for protection against enemies 
and for maintaining internal order and rights, have come 


actively to participate, and have in fact become the chief 
agency, in furthering spiritual values. This is peculiarly true 
of the institution of the family. The family has long since 
ceased to be merely a reproductive and child rearing agency, 
and has among many peoples assumed positive spiritual 
and idealistic tasks. 



As in the case of the institution of property, so in that 
of the family, men have sought to justify existing ideals 
by an appeal to "innate" instincts and "natural law." It is 
unnecessary at this stage of the discussion to point out 
how little basis there is in fact, either anthropological or 
psychological, for such a theory. It is true that we may per- 
haps speak of a "natural law of monogamy/' if we mean 
that it can be shown to be somehow inherent in, or implied 
in, the ethical nature of man as such. It is then, however, 
a normative or logical conception, rather than an historical 
one, and is ultimately based upon a teleological rather than 
a formalistic conception of morals. Without further pre- 
amble we shall then attempt to show that there is an ethical 
basis for the permanent monogamous conception, and that 
that basis is to be found in the notion of the indispensable 
conditions of the good life. 

In developing this notion we shall, as in our study of the 
institution of property, make use of the two values of se- 
curity and of self-realization. We shall consider these two 
values also from the standpoint both of the individual and 
of society. 

It may be taken for granted, as our starting point, that 
sex life even in the aspect of physical satisfaction is 
normally (in the sense of ordinarily) the indispensable con- 
dition of self-realization. But once for all, whether for 
good or ill, man's organic sex life has been inextricably 


bound up with his intellectual and spiritual life. That being 
the case, no self-realization through sex is possible that 
does not include "love." Conquest of the female may en- 
hance man's animal sense of power, and in like manner the 
woman may find satisfaction for her egotism in a succession 
of lovers. But it is surprising to both of them how really 
little there is in it in the end. Happiness, it has been said, 
is not merely a succession of good times, and if there is 
anywhere that this is peculiarly true it is in the sex life of 
men and women. Again possession of the other has a way 
of becoming empty and illusory unless it includes posses- 
sion of what we call the "soul." The materialist may depre- 
cate the use of such terms but if we do not use them we 
cannot talk intelligibly about what we all know as it were 
intuitively is the essence of love. Lust without love is an 
abstraction and, like all abstractions, in the end self- 

Love, in the sense here described and understood, can 
scarcely be separated from the ideal of permanence. A sex 
relation entered into with the deliberate intention of im- 
permanence is poisoned from the start. This is true in prin- 
ciple for both sexes, but it is peculiarly true in the case of 
women. Whether for good or ill, woman is possessive in a 
sense that the man is not. By the very conditions of her 
organic and psychical being, she must have the sense of 
security in her love; otherwise it cannot be the integrating 
factor in her life. Love that is passing is a disintegrating 
rather than an integrating force. This is true of the life of 
sex, even when abstracted from the child in which the union 
normally issues. It becomes doubly true when the self is 
expanded to include the child. 

No one with any sense for fact would be guilty of inter- 
preting these general principles as universals, applicable to 
all individuals without exception. Just as there are sex per- 
verts, as they are called, to whom the normal rules of sex 


life do not apply, so there are undoubtedly individuals for 
whom neither monogamy nor permanence are necessary. 
However we explain it, there are Don Juans and Messa- 
linas. There are men who are sex vagabonds, just as there 
are women over whose bodies and souls pass successive sex 
experiences, apparently without leaving a trace. But ethics 
is not primarily concerned with abnormalities of this kind, 
but rather with those general tendencies which display the 
basal characters of the human. 

Thus far we have considered the sex life of the individual, 
abstracted wholly from that which is part of that life in 
any natural or normal sense of the word namely the child 
that issues from the union. Security in the sex life, even 
from the point of view of the individual (more particularly 
the woman), demands permanence so soon as the child 
enters into the question. But we must now consider the prob- 
lem from the standpoint of the child, and of the society of 
which the child is to become an integral part. 

The permanent monogamous family, we may say with- 
out hesitation, is the indispensable condition of the seLf- 
realization of the child. The prolongation of human infancy 
necessitated the family in the first place. The increasing 
prolongation of that infancy, as the result of the growing 
complexity of society and the demands of that society, 
necessitates the making of the family permanent. This is 
not merely a matter of the physical support of the child. 
Forms of social organization are conceivable in which the 
State should take over the support and education of the 
child. In any capitalistic society, there are large classes of 
people who could break up the family and still provide for 
the support and formal education of the children without 
either difficulty or serious thought. We are concerned here 
with quite other conditions of self-realization, namely with 
the types of association which are indispensable to the 
realization of the character values we have called personal. 


In our Western civilization the home has become the cen- 
tral social cell and the most important influence in the early 
moral development of the individual. It is there that the 
primary and fundamental attitudes and emotions are de- 
veloped. There the child is trained to his sense of depend- 
ence upon others and responsibility to them. Confidence 
in the world and in his fellows, and the sense of obligation, 
spring from the family. In the family are begotten the 
earliest and deepest loyalties which make life possible and 
satisfying, and this sense of allegiance is later extended to 
include the child's community, country and society as a 
whole. Where the sense of family solidarity is deficient, the 
sense of social solidarity will be weaker. None but the most 
prejudiced would, I think, deny the truth of these state- 
ments. The moral and spiritual disorientation of the chil- 
dren of divorced couples is a phenomenon that is recognized 
by social observers as a fact, however different the ethical 
concepts with which they approach the facts. 1 

From every point of view then, the permanent monog- 
amous relation appears to be the indispensable condition of 
the highest moral development as we know it. From the 
standpoint of the individual, it is the indispensable condi- 
tion of self-realization. From the standpoint of society, it is 
the necessary form of the good life. 

Now it is customary to reply to all this that such argu- 
ment begs the whole question. It assumes the individualistic 
and capitalistic system in which we live, and in another 
system, such as communism for instance, permanence and 
monogamy might not be an indispensable condition either 
for the individual or society. This is undoubtedly true up 

1 A dean of an American university has recently asserted that, as a 
result of long experience, he has found that five times as many sons of 
divorced couples get into moral and other difficulties as in the case of 
the sons of normal families. Edith Wharton's The Children is a vivid 
picture of the social and moral disorientation of children of divorced 


to a point. Just as Russian communism feels it necessary to 
destroy the family in order to build up the purely communal 
man, to destroy the family loyalties in order that purely 
communal loyalties may be developed, so it may well be 
argued that, with communism, the family loyalties will no 
longer be needed as education in larger loyalties. Two things 
ought, however, to be said in this connection. First, it should 
be clear that any far-reaching change in the institution of 
the family, and in the ideals and laws connected with it, is 
possible only if there is a similar wide-reaching change in 
all our other institutions. That may be abstractedly desir- 
able. But one should be clear-headed enough to see that it 
is stupid to argue for a "reconstruction" of the family with- 
out advocating a corresponding reconstruction of the entire 
economic and social life of man. 

The question may well be raised whether sex life with- 
out the permanent monogamous form could really be a form 
of the good life in any intelligible sense of the word good. 
Drastic change in sex relations, involving reversion to more 
primitive forms, can hardly be the good life in any sense 
in which the historical life of man has come to understand 
the term. Here Russian communism is much more consistent 
than many of the half-hearted forms of radicalism which 
so cumber the moral ground. It is completely understood 
among the leaders of that communism that the changes 
they propose involve a change in our entire conception of 
morals, if indeed they do not make obsolete the whole 
notion of morals. Morality, as we know it, is for them a 
"bourgeois 77 phenomenon, and communism requires either 
a proletariat morality or no morality at all. 

In any case, there has been continual and substantial 
agreement on the part of most moral philosophers. The 
institution of the permanent monogamous family is for 
them the embodiment of reason. In the words of Spinoza: 
"With regard to marriage, it is plain that it is in accordance 


with reason, if the desire of connection is engendered not 
merely by external form, but by a love of begetting children 
and wisely educating them, and, if in addition, the love both 
of the husband and wife has as its cause not external form 
merely, but chiefly liberty of mind." * 


The seal of approval has been put on the ideal of the 
permanent monogamous relation for western European 
civilization at least by the Christian Church in its doc- 
trine of marriage as a sacrament, in its essence indis- 

The sacramental conception is not confined to the Chris- 
tian religion. Others have had the same conception, notably 
the Roman. One of the forms of marriage in the Roman 
Republic was sacramental and religious, one in which the 
man and his bride ate together a sacred cake and were 
thought to be mystically united. It is in Christian thought, 
however, that the idea reached its fullest philosophical 

Theologically based, as it was, on words of holy scrip- 
ture, it had nevertheless a philosophical ground in the recog- 
nition that it was based on a "law of nature 7 ' no less than 
on a law of God that, in other words, the Church but 
gives its blessing to that which reason itself makes neces- 
sary. This aspect is brought out by the conception of the 
nature of the marriage ceremony. The sacrament itself is 
in the betrothal, in that part of the ceremony in which the 
man and woman plight their troth. The priest but pro- 
nounces them man and wife and gives their union the 
Church's blessing. In this fashion the natural is taken up 
into the supernatural, that which belongs to the world of 

1 Ethics, 4th part, Appendix 19, 20. 


nature is made part of the world of "grace." It is for this 
reason that, according to canon law, when there cannot 
possibly be a priest to bless the union, the solemn betrothal 
in the eyes of God, constitutes a true marriage. 


The acceptance of a teleological theory of the ethical 
basis of the family, leads inevitably to the idea that it is 
possible to formulate certain norms or principles of the sex 
life and the rights and duties that spring from them. 
If it is true that the permanent monogamous relation is 
the indispensable condition of the highest forms of self- 
realization, then not only must certain norms necessarily 
follow, but these norms, and the laws in which they are 
embodied, can be understood and interpreted. Without fur- 
ther prelude I will proceed to indicate certain norms or 
principles which seem to me to be generally acknowledged. 
For convenience I will treat them under two heads, (a) The 
Norms of Sex Life and (b) The Norms of the Family. This 
does not mean, of course, that the two can be really sep- 
arated. Our definition of the family excludes that possibility. 
It merely means that such a relative distinction will enable 
us to bring out certain important points more clearly than 
would otherwise be possible. 

First and foremost, is the general recognition that sex 
life is normally the indispensable condition of the good life. 
Everyone, therefore, has a right, in a certain sense, to the 
values of sex, both organic and hyper-organic. As in the 
economic life, everyone has a right to share in the values 
created by society, so everyone has the right to values so 
fundamental to life as those comprehended in the word love. 

This norm, in its most general sense, would probably be 
disputed by no one. The life of sex is recognized as nor- 
mally the condition of self-realization, and any form of 
society that would make impossible that life for great num- 


bcrs of its members, would be recognized as both inimical 
to life and intrinsically unjust. Moreover, the right freely 
to enter into marriage, as contrasted with the limitations 
upon that right such as existed in feudal times, is but a 
single phase of that total freedom which the modern doc- 
trine of "natural right" stands for. For the same reason, 
coercion is sufficient reason, both in civil and church law, 
for declaring a marriage ab initlo null and void. 

The radical thought of the present tends, however, to give 
a much wider interpretation to this norm. The right to 
happiness, or "to live one's own life/ 7 as it is euphemis- 
tically called, is often supposed to include the right to "free 
love," in the sense of the right to the values of sex without 
the correlative obligations. The right of every woman to 
have one child and no questions asked, is supposed to be a 
direct deduction from this norm. Like the "vagabond wage," 
with which it is in spirit closely connected, it has a fan- 
tastic quality which prevents it from being considered seri- 
ously by most mature minds. Vagabondage, whether in life 
or in love, is a romanticism that in the main appeals only to 
the youthful mind. 

Scarcely less fundamental than the preceding norm, is that 
which tells us that in the sex life the values of the person 
should always be put above the physical or organic values. 
Here again, scarcely anyone would be disposed to dispute 
this norm in principle. The distinction between love and lust 
is one which it may not always be easy to make, but it is 
one that everyone understands. There is such a thing as 
"good, honest lust" to make use of the words of one play- 
wright and physical satisfaction is an indispensable part 
of sex life; but abstracted from the higher values, it tends, 
not only to become self-defeating, but to turn into cruelty 
and hate. Tolstoy's Krcutzer Sonata is doubtless an extreme 
and morbid presentation of these facts, but our accumu- 
lated wisdom regarding the sex life puts the truth of the 


general principle beyond cavil. In any case, this norm is 
recognized alike in morals and in law, and we may take it 
as operative in most of our moral judgments on acts of sex. 

There is a third norm of the sex life which there will be 
some disposition to dispute but only, I think, when it is not 
properly understood. It is that physical gratification or 
satisfaction should not be ultimately and permanently sep- 
arated from the functions of propagation and parenthood. 
The normal life of sex issues in that consummation, and it 
seems to be a consummation necessary for the realization 
of all the values inherent in the sex life, and one the denial 
of which brings into action a self-defeating process. It seems 
to be a special case of that general principle of vicious 
abstractionism of which we have just spoken. 

It must be admitted that we are here on delicate and 
dangerous ground. This norm is capable of extreme and 
doubtful interpretation and application. There have been 
extremists who have held that all sex gratification without 
the intent of propagation is wrong or sinful which seems 
to be a manifest absurdity. There are those who set them- 
selves absolutely against all birth control on the grounds 
that it is contrary to nature and to the laws of God. We 
need not commit ourselves to either dogma, in order to 
realize the indisputable element of truth in this norm. Even 
so liberal a thinker as Bernard Shaw expresses the opinion 
that "the essential function of marriage is the continuation 
of the race, its accidental function being the gratification 
of the amoristic sentiment of mankind. The artificial sterili- 
zation of marriage makes it possible for marriage to fulfil 
its accidental function whilst neglecting its essential one.' 7 * 

The artificial sterilization of marriage is, in itself, with- 
out question, in opposition to the true ends of marriage. On 
the other hand, no unbiased thinker will deny that other 

1 One of the "Maxims for Revolutionists" in Man and Superman. 


duties come into conflict with this one and make decision 
difficult. One of the strongest arguments for the practice 
of birth control has been expressed in the annual report of 
the Woman's Welfare Centre of England for 1924. "The 
only effective way of dealing with this human problem is to 
teach all married women, and especially the poorest, how 
they can limit their families without denying to themselves 
and to their husbands that physical union which is the basis 
of married life." 


Already in the consideration of the norms of the indi- 
vidual sex life for the moment considered apart from the 
institution of the family it is obvious that no such norms 
can exist without implying both rights and duties. One can- 
not decently enter into merely casual physical relations 
with a member of the opposite sex without incurring at least 
a minimum of obligation. Just as the enjoyment of economic 
good presupposes the obligation to activity in some form, 
so the enjoyment of "love" implies at least a minimum of 
obligation. For these reasons, "free love" in any absolute 
sense is a will-o'-the-wisp. The simple fact is that love, by 
its very nature, is never free. The moment one falls in love 
he is already tied; he has voluntarily assumed obligations. 
The sense of duty and the feeling of sympathy and pity are 
strong enough in the majority of human beings to create a 
sort of natural morals of the sex relation. 

The norms of the family simply expand these norms of 
the individual sex life, develop them and sanction them. 
The concept of norms of the family expresses itself in the 
notion of marital rights and duties. Conjugal rights, as they 
are called, spring out of the legitimate expectations or 
claims, created by the fact that the sex instinct is function- 
ing in a social medium with social consent. Conjugal duties 
may be defined as the respect we owe to these expectations 


by reason of the fact that we are social beings, in other 
words that we are men, not animals. 

There is a certain type of "sentimental" mind to which 
the entire notion of applying the ideas of right and duty to 
the intimate relations of sex is repulsive. In marriage, it is 
said, there are no rights, only privileges. It may be ad- 
mitted, of course, that in marriage, as in other human rela- 
tions, the ideal state is one of spontaneous understanding 
in which the cold and abstract ideas of right and duty are 
no longer thought of. It may readily be admitted also that 
the hard and often crude ways in which marital rights are 
demanded, and even more expressed in law, smack of the 
vulgar. A suit to recover damages for alienation of affec- 
tions increases neither our admiration nor our respect for 
the person bringing the suit. But all this does not alter the 
fact that the rights and their corresponding duties are there. 
As an individual, I may disclaim such rights; I may be un- 
willing to demand of my wife what she cannot give with 
her whole heart, and I may be commended for my sensi- 
tiveness and good taste. But to renounce rights does not 
destroy them. Still less does it remove the obligations cor- 
resppnding to those rights. 

Conjugal rights include the right to the love of one's 
spouse, or cohabitation, the right to support on the part of 
the wife and the children, the right to respect of the person, 
etc. These rights, as we have seen, grow directly out of 
the norms of the sex life itself. It is quite clear that society 
and the State, in embodying such norms in laws, can pro- 
ceed only in an external and often crude fashion. The law 
cannot fail, however, to recognize the basal fact of cohabi- 
tation in marriage, the need of "love" and the expectations 
growing out of the mutual vows. It has been held by the 
courts in recent decisions, for instance, that a contract of 
marriage entered into without the intention of consumma- 
tion, is contrary to public policy and ab inltio null and void. 


Nor can the law fail to recognize the legitimate expectation 
of support or the claims of the person, both physical and 
mental, to respect and protection. 


That there is a right and a wrong in matters of sex every 
one recognizes. It is probable that there are few persons 
who would not set some limits to their lusts, and few who 
would not acknowledge some obligation, some claim or 
legitimate expectation, however slight, as growing out of 
the sex relation. Those to whom there are no such limits, 
and for whom there are no obligations, we properly describe 
as lacking all moral sense. Lack of moral sense is insensi- 
tiveness to the norms that spring naturally out of the sex 
life. Sexual immorality is a violation of these norms. We 
shall best understand them by an examination of the nature 
of sexual immorality. 

There is one notion, not so prevalent as it has been at 
times, but still not without its influence, which from the 
start prevents any proper understanding of the problem 
the notion, namely, that there is something intrinsically bad 
or shameful in the sex act itself, in the desires and bodily 
pleasures connected with its exercise. This notion has been 
connected in some minds with religion, in particular with 
the Christian religion. This is, of course, simply a result of 
ignorance. For Christian philosophy, the sex act has always 
been considered intrinsically good part of that creation 
of which it was said: "God saw that it was good." From the 
moral standpoint, the sex act is itself neutral as egoism 
and altruism are neutral its goodness or badness depend- 
ing upon the relations or context in which it is exercised. 
Dirt is described as matter out of place, and moral dirt is 
nothing more nor less than the brute matter of life out of 
its normal place in terms of our earlier discussion, a per- 
version of values (Chapter IX). 



Sex immorality consists in the violation of the norms of 
the sex life. The immorality that attaches to sex relations 
outside the family involves the violation of norms both in- 
dividual and social. The mere fact that indulgence in sex 
relations outside the bonds of marriage strikes at an insti- 
tution that has been found to be an indispensable basis of 
the moral life, is in itself a violation of that respect for 
moral order that is part of morality; but it involves also 
violation of the norms of the individual sex life as well. 
This latter aspect requires our first attention. 

The healthy common sense of mankind has always rec- 
ognized grades or degrees of immorality in these matters. 
By examining common sense on this point we may be able 
to disclose more fully the basal character of these norms 
and of the ethical ideal out of which they spring. 

Love with mutual consent and with the intent or expec- 
tation of permanence, yet without the sanction of society 
or benefit of clergy, is generally felt to approach closely to 
the ideal of marriage. By many it is felt to be a true mar- 
riage of kindred souls to which "conventional" marriage 
can add nothing. It would be idle to deny that many high- 
minded relationships have been established on this basis; 
and the only taint of the immoral appears to lie in the anti- 
social element. This is, however, not quite the case. Such 
relationships are founded too much on feeling and impulse 
and too little on volition. There is always lacking that 
legitimate expectation of permanence that security which 
is necessary to the realization of the highest values of the 
person. Quite apart from the difficulty of making such rela- 
tions a "success," there is always lacking something in re- 
spect for the person. Realization of love between two such 
people fails in that complete self-realization which is pos- 
sible only when permanence and security are so completely 


taken for granted that they constitute an unquestioned as- 
sumption. "Loyalty demands the family, not the family 

Even in the most "ideal" relationships of the preceding 
type there is something lacking. A still deeper taint of im- 
morality attaches to those forms of sex relation in which 
there is physical satisfaction without love. The norm that 
the values of the person should always be put above the 
organic or bodily values, may be violated either by con- 
scious deceit pretense of love where it is not or by a 
conscious and mutually understood reservation of person- 
ality on both sides. The immoral character of the former 
is generally recognized, but it is sometimes felt that when 
both play the game honestly no trace of moral obliquity 
inheres. No one of discrimination would think of lumping 
such relations with ordinary prostitution, but, equally, no 
one of real discrimination can fail to see the taint of the 
immoral attaching to them. 

On the whole, it may be said that the healthy moral sense 
of mankind finds something "wrong" in the gratification 
of lust without love. It is then entirely clear why this same 
healthy moral sense should find in the "selling of love" in 
any form a still lower degree of immorality. 

The exchange of that which is most personal and intimate 
for impersonal objects of any kind is normally felt to be a 
degradation. There is a certain type of "self-respecting" 
woman who will give herself freely where there is desire 
or love, but will accept nothing except tokens of affection 
without great intrinsic worth. Those who sell love, whether 
in an open or disguised form, are exchanging that which, 
for a developed human being, is the most personal of all 
things, for the most impersonal and instrumental. Economic 
values are all instrumental values, and any exchange of the 
personal values of character for them is felt to be perver- 


sion of values and degradation. The selling of love for a 
price especially in money is only an extreme case of this 
general principle. 

Commercialized prostitution represents naturally the 
lowest level of sexual immorality unless we enter upon the 
field of sexual perversion, in which case we enter upon a 
field of abnormality where the problem is mainly one of 
therapeutic or criminal procedure. Prostitution, on the other 
hand, normal enough in the sense which identifies the normal 
with the natural, involves the deepest violation of the norms 
of sex life in the ethical sense. On the side of the prosti- 
tute, it is the basest of sales of self for gold. On the side 
of him who uses the prostitute, it is an extreme form of 
violation of that moral norm which tells us to treat the 
moral person always as an end and never as a means. 


Immorality within the family consists in the violation of 
conjugal rights or legitimate expectations, created by the 
voluntary betrothal of the two parties, acknowledged as a 
contract by the State, or solemnized as a sacrament by the 

These rights and their correlative duties being, as we 
have seen, in principle but a social sanction of the norms 
inherent in the human sex life itself immorality within the 
family is, in the first instance, violation of these norms, and 
secondarily, the violation of the contractual relation which 
the State has sanctioned. This is seen in an enumeration of 
what are considered "marital wrongs", and which are con- 
sidered in many instances sufficient grounds for divorce. 

These wrongs are chiefly adultery or infidelity, desertion 
and non-support, and intolerable cruelty the latter being 
often interpreted so broadly as to include violation of various 
rights of the person, which bring with them not only physi- 


cal but mental anguish. The term "refined cruelty" is, for 
instance, entering more and more into present-day suits for 
divorce, and while it undoubtedly represents a tendency to 
stretch the term for the purpose of securing legal freedom 
from the marriage bond, it is also indicative of the increas- 
ing recognition of the rights of the person in marriage as 
acknowledged by law. 

Of the fact that these are marital wrongs that they 
constitute violation of recognized norms of the sex life 
there can be no question. The question is rather whether 
any or all of them are adequate grounds for terminating 
the marriage relation. Their nature as wrongs is recognized 
alike by the most conservative and the most radical on the 
question of divorce. 


The question of divorce is so complicated and confused 
that we can here hope to do little more than clarify the 
problem, and suggest lines along which reflection must 
proceed if we are to solve it. This confusion is made mani- 
fest to the most thoughtless by the fact that the laws gov- 
erning divorce in our own country vary in the different 
states from those who grant divorce for the single cause 
of adultery to those that grant it for almost any cause. 
The demand for some uniformity in divorce laws arises, 
not only from the practical scandals that occur in the ad- 
ministration of these varied laws, but also from the growing 
necessity of clearing up the confusion in the public mind 
on this fundamental question. 

In general it may be said that there are three main at- 
titudes towards divorce, and that these three attitudes pro- 
ceed from three quite different assumptions regarding the 
nature of marriage. There is, in the first place, the posi- 
tion that would deny divorce on any grounds, or at most 


on the grounds of the single cause of adultery. This rigorous 
view is maintained chiefly, although not solely, by certain 
forms of the Christian Church on the one hand the Roman 
Catholic, which denies divorce on any grounds, holding 
that it is a sacrament and therefore indissoluble, and on 
the other certain forms, of which the Protestant Episcopal 
Church in this country is a strong representative, which 
sanction divorce for the sole cause of adultery. On this 
conservative view, the sacredness and inviolability of the 
marriage tie is held to be so fundamental a foundation for 
family and social life, that any move towards making the 
laws of divorce more easy is persistently opposed. 

In complete contrast to this position is that of those who 
would have divorce by mutual consent. This view is main- 
tained by many of the more radical social philosophies and 
is approximated at least, if not completely realized, in the 
practice of the Soviet Republic today. Between these two 
views is one which may perhaps be described as a liberal 
view, in contrast to both the conservative and the radical. 
Those of this way of thinking still maintain, on the whole, 
the norm of the permanent monogamous family as the 
indispensable condition of the good life, but hold that we 
must show common sense in its application, often insisting 
that the only way to maintain this ideal of the family is 
to provide more readily available means for dissolving it 
in those cases where its maintenance seems humanly im- 
possible. 1 


In considering these three positions we may with ad- 
vantage begin with the conservative view. This view may 
be bound up with a formalistic theory of morals or a theo- 

1 The "liberal" view is well presented in Bernard Shaw's Getting Married, 
very witty play with an interesting preface. 


logical conception of marriage as a sacrament, but not nec- 
essarily. One of the strongest arguments for this position 
has been presented by Felix Adler who is influenced by 
neither consideration. 1 For a teleological view the argu- 
ment follows in general these lines. The permanent mono- 
gamous family is the norm of sex relations because it is 
the indispensable condition of self-realization, both for the 
marital couple and for the children. Its rigorous main- 
tenance by law is necessary for social coherence and wel- 
fare, but even more for its educational value. 

The upholders of this view are, in general, quite aware of 
the difficulties in the theory and of the arguments that 
may be brought against it. They recognize, in the first place, 
the unhappiness that must inevitably follow a rigorous ap- 
plication of the norm in individual cases. This unhappiness 
is however, they hold, to a large degree the fault of the 
individuals concerned. The marital relation is founded too 
much on impulse and feeling and too little on volition. 
Marital happiness is not our right, but something to be 
achieved. The romantic idea of "living happily ever after- 
ward" is an illusion unless we approach the making of a 
true marriage with the requisite good will. The rigorists do 
not deny that there are marriage bonds that really become 
"intolerable," and for these judicial separation is a necessary 
resort, but they hold that the appeal to intolerable cruelty 
and incompatibility is in the main a cloak for quite other 
reasons. Nor do the rigorists deny that the maintenance of 
this norm frequently involves deceit and vice on the part 
of many who seek to circumvent it, but they hold that 
the evils thus engendered cannot for a moment be com- 
pared to those which follow upon the license which a loosen- 
ing of marital bonds inevitably brings. 

It is, however, in connection with the children that the 

1 In his admirable book, Marriage and Divorce, two popular lectures 
distinguished by fine feeling and mature wisdom. 


strongest argument is made. The permanent and united 
home as the indispensable condition of the moral develop- 
ment of the child, is taken as an indisputable premise. As a 
result of a broken family life the child is left "morally 
marooned." His father and mother, the two persons that 
have meant most to him at the beginning, have failed him. 
Since even they could not be loyal to each other and the 
family ideal, it becomes difficult for such a child to believe 
in the reality of loyalty and of social bonds. There are 
those who object that the divorce itself is not the cause 
of the moral abnormality of the children of divorced parents. 
Even if there had been no divorce, these children would 
have been compelled to live in unhappy homes, and it is 
better that the parents should separate than that the chil- 
dren should grow up in an atmosphere of continuous bicker- 
ing. The evils of such a home are not to be minimized, yet 
there is one point here that should not be overlooked. In 
such homes, even where there is wide disagreement be- 
tween the parents, the child still has a sense that there is 
after all a common life and common ends. Both of them 
are acting at least for his interest, however opposed their 
ideas may be. Such a situation is mentally confusing and 
emotionally upsetting, but after all not so morally destructive 
as is the divorce. 


The radical position with regard to marriage and divorce 
proceeds from entirely different assumptions and reaches 
wholly opposing conclusions. Its major premise is that sex 
relations are primarily the business of the individual alone, 
and its ideal is divorce with mutual consent. This position 
is not new. During the Roman Empire the principle was 
recognized. Divorce could be had at the desire of either 
party and was very common. It is an ideal that tends to be 
revived in all periods of individualism, and is the inspiration 


of much of the tendency to frequent divorces at the present 

The nearest actual approach to this ideal is in the mar- 
riage law of Soviet Russia. Marriage in present-day Rus- 
sia, according to the revised laws of 1926, is a matter of 
simple registration. It is enough to declare that you are 
going to marry. Divorce is obtained in very much the same 
manner. You can get a speedy and inexpensive separation 
by simply stating a valid reason why you do not care to 
live with wife or husband. So far as the personal relation 
is concerned there is, therefore, almost unlimited freedom. 
But there are sordid matters of support, care of the children 
and the like, which even the ultra-radical Russian govern- 
ment cannot overlook. To begin with, it demands that 
parents should bear the responsibility of their children and 
bear it equally. This is the reason why the Soviets want 
marriages registered officially, although many of the an- 
archistically inclined Russians protest even against this 

The ideal of divorce with mutual consent is likely to 
appear in all individualistic epochs. Much of its inspiration 
is due to the romanticism which says of man that he was 
born free but is now everywhere in chains, the marriage 
bonds being one of the chief restraints which civilization puts 
upon the natural impulses of men. The naturalism thus in- 
volved in romanticism has, however, taken on a peculiar 
coloring in our own day. Men no longer think so much 
of human nature as of animal nature. In the recent Russian 
play, Red Rust, one of the communist girls, "married" to 
a communist leader, cannot rid herself of the bourgeois 
ideal of constancy and is therefore sad over the unfaith- 
fulness and brutal cynicism of her partner. To which one 
of her more enlightened and hardened sisters answers: 
"Why should they be faithful? We are merely female 



The so-called liberal view is equally opposed to the con- 
servative and the radical. With the conservatives, liberals 
admit that on the union of men and women must ultimately 
depend the continuance and character of the race. All that 
makes that union honorable and desirable, and ensures that 
it shall be determined, not merely by the inclinations of 
man's selfish nature, but by a rational and social will, should 
be upheld and safeguarded. The weight both of custom and 
of law should be in the balance of continuity and per- 

On the other hand, the liberal is just as insistent that 
on the question of divorce we must take a pragmatic stand- 
point. For him both extremes of divorce by mutual con- 
sent, and no divorce for any reasons whatever, or for the 
sole cause of adultery are abstract formulas, and we 
must swallow all the formulas. For him there is no way 
of solving this problem except through experience, and ex- 
perience seems to be in the main in favor of liberalizing 
our marriage laws. The liberal is in general likely also to 
put great emphasis upon the changing rather than the 
permanent aspects of human life, to be impressed by the 
changing economic conditions that affect the external forms 
of family life, and by the growing consciousness of indi- 
viduality, on the part of both man and woman, which leads 
them to make greater demands upon life in general and 
upon the married life in particular. 

Those who hold this view, although liberal in principle, 
may yet argue in perfect good faith for the greatest self- 
sacrifice on the part of the individual in the matter of 
divorce. A man holding such views may be opposed on 
principle to rigid laws making divorce impossible or very 
difficult, and to all the immorality and deceit which the 
maintenance of these laws entails, and yet retain the ideal 


of permanence as normal to the ethical life. He may argue 
that while there are undoubtedly cases where a decent 
relation between man and woman can no longer be main- 
tained, and separation and ultimately divorce are entirely 
justified, yet in the majority of cases sufficient effort has 
not been made to make the life together a success. He may 
demand increasing legal freedom, but at the same time in- 
sist upon the need of increasing education in the ideals of 
marriage and of the family which have been developed by 
the race. 

The view here described in all probability expresses the 
state of public opinion and also the ordinary ethical con- 
sciousness of the time. It is probably also the most that can 
be legitimately embodied in law, for law embodies merely 
the minimum of morality necessary for the ethical life of 
society. It is therefore presented as the most workable 
theory of divorce in this sense. 

This is not, however, it should be frankly admitted, the 
view of the present writer. The ideal of the permanent 
monogamous family, as worked out in the experience of the 
race and as sanctioned by the religious consciousness, seems 
to be the only ideal fully consistent with a perfectionist 
ethics. The influence of religious considerations in the for- 
mation of this view can not be denied, but in view of the 
close relations of morals to religion, to be developed in a 
later chapter, the exclusion of such considerations seems 
neither logical nor possible. In any case, the three possible 
attitudes, with both their premises and conclusions, have 
been presented, and the student must work out his own 
attitude in the light of the material at his disposal. 



F. Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, 
Vol. II, Chaps. XL-XLII. History oj Human Marriage. 

* Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, Chaps. IV-V. 

*W. Wundt, Ethics, Vol. II, (Principles of Morals), Part IV, 

Chap. II. 

R. Briffault, The Mothers. 
W. H. R. Rivers, Kinship and Social Organization, Chaps. 

Ill, IV. 

J. G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy. 
W. G. Sumner and A. G. Keller, The Science oj Society, 

Vol. III. 

* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XXVI. 

James Bryce, Marriage and Divorce in Roman and English 
Law, in Studies, in History and Jurisprudence. 


W. I. Thomas, Sex and Society. 
H. Ellis, Man and Woman. 

F. Tracy, The Psychology oj Adolescence. 

G. S. Hall, Adolescence. 

A. Maud Royden, Sex and Common Sense. 


* Helen Bosanquet, The Family, (moderately conservative). 

* Felix Acller, Marriage and Divorce, (conservative). 
R. C. Abbott, What Men Live By, Chap. XIX. 

* B. H. Streeter in Adventure (liberal). 

B. Russell, Marriage and Morals, (radical). 
Robert Grant, Law and the Family, Chaps. V-VII. 
Durant Drake, Problems oj Conduct, Chap. XVII. 
Willy stine Goodsell, Problems oj the Family. 

J. H. Wigmore, editor, Rational Basis oj Legal Institutions, 



The third of the fundamental concepts of ethics is that 
of virtue. Like the other two, rights and duties, virtues have 
also been made the central thing in ethics. Virtue has often 
been contrasted with pleasure and, as a result of this con- 
trast, virtue rather than happiness is said to be the summum 

In both Greek and Christian ethics the tendency is to 
put the emphasis on virtue. In both the "good man" is the 
central conception. To be, rather than to have or do, char- 
acter rather than possessions or actions, are given the 
primacy in ethical thought. In a broad sense we may say, 
with Leslie Stephen, that "the direction of moral develop- 
ment is from doing to being," and that the ultimate ques- 
tion for the moral agent is what ought I to be? 

This exalted position of virtue and character is part of 
the moral tradition of the race. It is all the more interesting 
to note that in recent decades both the term itself and the 
peculiar moral emphasis for which it stands, have almost 
departed from our current speech and thought. We still 
keep the word in our text books on ethics and most of them 
have a chapter on the virtues, but in ordinary life we shun 
the word like the plague. The depreciation of "conventional 
virtue" is not without a measure of justification. It is in 
part a phase of the reaction against the "smugness" of 
puritan and Victorian ideals, in part the result of a grow- 
ing sensitiveness to the self-defeating character of the pur- 
suit of virtue for its own sake. In reality, however, this 



depreciation is more seeming than real. The same basic 
qualities of character are still appreciated, only we have 
given them new and often slangy names. The virtues of 
courage, temperance, wisdom and justice are still valued, 
but we prefer to call men "white" or "yellow," "straight" 
or "crooked," "true blue," or a "rotter." We are con- 
temptuous of the man or woman who is too careful of his 
or her own virtue, but we are equally contemptuous of them 
if they really lose it. The fact remains that we are still more 
interested in what men are than in what they do. 

Life today may be primarily a life of action, but we can- 
not achieve or realize anything without inevitably achiev- 
ing also something that we call character, something that 
we call the self. It follows that we still want to know what 
that character should be and what the self ought to become. 
Certainly any theory of ethics that conceives the end in 
terms of self-realization must give a fundamental place to 
character values, and for such an ethics the ideal of the 
"good man" must be central. 


The term virtue has a wider and a narrower meaning 
which it is important to distinguish. According to the wider 
meaning, virtue is any human excellence, any excellence of 
character. The radical sense of the term is, indeed, strength. 
In this primary sense we speak of the virtues of plants or 
drugs in medicine that substance or quality of physical 
bodies, by virtue of which they produce effects on other 
bodies. As applied to human qualities, its first signification 
was manliness, courage, valor. This was the primary sig- 
nification among the Romans, although the sense is now 
almost obsolete. 

This primary meaning easily and naturally expanded to 
include any quality of human character that is admired 
and valued. This was largely the meaning of the Greek 


use of the term, and it is in this sense that Plato and Aris- 
totle spoke of the ethical end as virtue rather than pleasure. 
Taken in this sense, to define the ethical end as virtue is 
the same thing as defining it in terms of perfection or self- 

It is only in this broader sense that virtue or character 
may be said to be the highest good and the form in which 
self-realization is achieved. But there is a narrower mean- 
ing of the term, more in accord with popular usage and 
understanding, from which we must take our start. 

According to this view, virtue is correlated with duty. 
The virtues are habits or aspects of character that are ac- 
quired in the performance of duties and in the recognition 
and fulfillment of claims or rights of various kinds. Virtue 
in this sense is not any excellence of human nature that we 
may admire, but only that form of excellence which is ex- 
pressed in the good will that good will of which Kant said 
that it is the only jewel that shines by its own light. 

Virtue in this sense is related to overt human behavior 
very much as potential energy is related to dynamic. Vir- 
tuous dispositions are steadfast habits of obeying the com- 
mandments or of performing duties; and these habits or 
dispositions are valued in the first instance instrumentally, 
for their efficiency in promoting the welfare of society. We 
value the economic virtue of thrift or saving, especially 
in a capitalistic society, largely because it is only through 
saving that the capital necessary to production can be 
accumulated; and secondly because people of thrift do not 
become a charge on society. In gefteral' ffite- virtues of brav- 
ery, temperance, chastity, etc., all have their instrumental 
value. Intemperance and automobiles do not go together. 


There can be little question that the primary point of 
view from which the good and bad qualities of men should 


be studied is the pragmatic and utilitarian. Gratitude has 
been defined as the lively expectation of favors to come. 
Without undue cynicism we may say that we call those 
qualities admirable or virtuous from which we expect cer- 
tain types of desirable behavior. 

This instrumental character of the virtues is brought out 
clearly in any study of the evolution of morality and moral 
sentiments. The qualities approved and admired by primi- 
tive men correspond in the main directly with the kinds 
of actions favorable to the survival and welfare of the tribe. 
"The 'good man/ almost everywhere among primitives, is 
one who keeps his promises to his fellow tribesmen, is not 
lazy in group affairs, does not steal from his fellows, does 
not murder one of them, especially if he is young and fit, 
and thus reduce the strength of the tribe, or precipitate a 
blood feud." Courage and loyalty are two of the qualities 
everywhere admired. 

It seems probable also, from what we know of the men- 
tality of primitive peoples, that the virtus, or strength, 
which was thus admired was thought of more as a "natural" 
than as a "moral" quality, that is it was thought of just 
as any physical quality, rather than as one in any way 
acquired through the choice or will of the individual 
who possesses it. We see the same thing in connection with 
"natural accountability," as contrasted with moral respon- 
sibility, about which we shall have more to say later. 1 
Primitive man will hold his fellow accountable for his 
actions just as he might an animal, without any clear sense 
of moral responsibility arising out of conscious motive or 
understanding of the meaning of the act. Similarly, it ap- 
pears that desirable qualities are often admired and valued 
without any clear sense of their relation to character and 
deliberate will. It is only on later stages of development 
that this relation to character is realized and the qualities 

1 Chapter XVII, p. 400. 


become valued for their own sake, as part of the nature 
of the good life itself. 


The outstanding fact from this point of view is the rela- 
tfoity of the virtues. Virtues, like rights and duties, are 
functional and not substantive. From their functional char- 
acter follows their relativity. This relativity of virtue takes 
two forms: (i) to stages of development, or states of so- 
ciety; and (2) to social function. 

The relativity of rights and duties, is, we have seen, a 
necessary consequence of the evolution of society and of 
the change in environment, physical and social. New occa- 
sions teach new duties. But it is also true that time makes 
ancient good uncouth. Primitive virtues, as we call them 
physical valor, tribal loyalty, maternal love, etc. arc clearly 
functional and, in all probability, in their primitive forms 
at least, determined by processes of "natural selection.'' 
Their survival value is obvious. But that which has sur- 
vival value on one level may not have the same value on 
another level of development and in another environment 
or at least lose much of its significance. Physical courage 
may lose much of its value in the context of modern life 
and brute, unthinking, loyalty may be a positive detriment. 
There are reasons for believing that the economic virtue 
of thrift, so important in the earlier forms of our com- 
petitive and capitalistic civilization, is losing some of its 
importance in the more highly organized forms of economic 
activity of the present, and through the wide extension of 
the credit system. Certainly it is relatively less valued. 1 

1 Certain economists, among them even some of high standing, have 
even condemned in no uncertain voice the virtue of thrift. People must 
buy and buy freely if production is to go on. Yet it is doubtful whether 
these same economists would be bold enough to deplore the increase of 
life insurance in the modern world. Thrift of some sort must continue, 
although it may change its form. 


It is true that attempts to exalt moral above physical 
courage, loyalty to such ideals as truth and humanity above 
loyalty to group, may meet with little popular success. Un- 
doubtedly any outstanding exhibition of physical valor 
or of unthinking loyalty will continue to call out the ad- 
miration of the majority of mankind, whereas the finer and 
more subtle forms of virtue will go relatively unnoticed. 
But what do these facts mean? They are partly explained, 
no doubt, by such words as survival and "atavism." But 
they represent also a sound common sense which recognizes, 
not only the essential continuity between the primitive and 
the more civilized virtues, but also that these same ele- 
mental qualities must remain the basis for all higher de- 


From the primarily instrumental character of virtues fol- 
lows also their relativity to the functions of society. Just 
as men w T ill always admire the good carpenter or the good 
lyre-player of which Aristotle speaks, so in our modern 
life men will admire the good baseball player, the good 
aviator, the good business man, etc., rather than the "good 
man" in general. Men are practical and the essence of 
practicality is reference to the specific situation. A certain 
amount of specialization in our conceptions of character 
and virtue is inevitable. 

This phase of the relativity of the virtues was seized 
upon by the Sophists in early Greek thought. The functions 
of the freeman and of the slave in an organized society such 
as the Greek city state, were radically different; the func- 
tions of the two sexes in society generally are even more 
fundamentally different. Is it not natural to suppose that 
the desirable dispositions in these cases are also radically 
different? So the Sophists thought. 

We find the same tendency in modern life and thought, 


even more exaggerated perhaps. The increased division of 
labor and differentiation of function in our industrial and 
civil life has had its effect on the life of the spirit. Exalta- 
tion of the economic virtues is a characteristic of our time. 
The tendency to reward them out of all proportion to their 
significance in the total life of society, naturally brings 
with it the feeling that they really are fundamental and 
that they, in a sense, constitute the norm. A man might be 
little flattered if he were called a good man in the ancient 
and honorable sense of the word, but if his chief in business 
described him as a "good man," with the special meaning 
implied, he would be likely to be greatly pleased. 

Despite these exaggerations, there remains an element of 
truth in this conception of relativity of virtue to social 
function. If virtue be thought of in its relation to duty, it 
is scarcely possible that it can escape this specialization 
any more than duty. The virtues of a physician are not 
quite those of a farmer, those of a commercial man not quite 
those of a man of science, those of a priest not quite those 
of an artist. Even more does the far-reaching specification 
of function in the case of men and women, make it true 
that, on the whole, the qualities which we respect and admire 
in men are not the same in all respects as those which we 
admire in women. Common elements there are, as we shall 
see, in all these variations, but the functional character of 
the variations makes them important too. 1 

1 This relativity of virtues to functions in society has given rise to 
special codes of ethics, of which what are called "Medical Ethics" and 
"Legal Ethics" are the outstanding examples. Without going into details, 
we may point out that the leading idea of these special codes is always 
that there are special duties or obligations belonging to these specific 
functions in society. The obligation of the physician to prolong life at 
any cost, and to be at the service of those who are sick at all times, irre- 
spective of profit, is paralleled in legal ethics by the obligations of the 
lawyer to serve the cause of justice. A similar tendency is observable in 
present-day business. The increasing effort to make of business a profes- 
sion, to substitute for the pure profit-motive that of service, is one 
note-worthy feature of our time. An informative and valuable attempt 
to bring these various codes together in one general treatment will be 
found in a book by Carl F. Taeusch, Professional and Business Ethics, 1926* 



The relativity of the concept of virtue in the two senses 
defined and explained, is undeniable. "Nothing," says Mon- 
taigne, "in the world varies so greatly as law and custom. 
A thing is called abominable in one place and in another 
is praised, as in Lacedaemonia clever thieving was admired." 
What is true of acts is in a degree also true of qualities or 
dispositions. That which is "virtue on one side of the 
Pyrenees is vice on the other.' 7 What is virtue at one time 
is often vice in another, and what is abominable for one 
class is often praised in another. 

Nevertheless, few moralists have been content with this 
too ready and impressionistic view of the situation. Under- 
neath, or through, the changing conceptions of virtue and of 
character, they have felt and rightly that there are cer- 
tain more or less constant human qualities that are not 
only admired everywhere, at all times and by all men, but 
which remain in their essence constant, despite their change 
in form. If, from the accidental elements due to different 
levels of historical development and different environ- 
mental conditions, we separate out what is their essential 
form, we shall find that this essence does not change. 
There are, so to speak, certain absolute character values 
that are permanent and intrinsic. 

This notion of a permanent ideal of character and of 
unchanging values, was expressed by Plato in his concep- 
tion of the cardinal virtues. It was, in fact, partly as a re- 
action against the extreme relativity and scepticism of the 
Sophists, that first Socrates, and then Plato and Aristotle, 
developed their conceptions of universal and common vir- 
tues. Plato's list has at least the merit of simplicity. It 
contained only four Wisdom (or Prudence), Courage (or 
Fortitude), Temperance (or Self-Restraint) and Justice (or 
Righteousness). Plato, and Greek moralists in general, 


thought of these as cardinal, not only because in one form 
or another they are universally valued, but also because 
they are fundamental and irreducible, being those qualities 
of character on which all the others hinge. 


The cardinal virtues are the names we give to certain 
constant qualities or dispositions of men developed in the 
choice of higher values over lower. Thus temperance or self- 
control is steadfastness of will in choosing higher personal 
values rather than the lower bodily values. Courage is a 
like quality of the will in the presence of danger or pain. 
Always admirable in itself, it gets its degree of value from 
the nature of the goods or values for the sake of which 
the risk of danger or pain is run. Justice is the determina- 
tion to be impartial in the face of personal prejudice, pref- 
erence or self-interest. It involves a like steadfastness of 
will in keeping the claims of other persons or social in- 
terests before our minds; and the quality or degree of that 
justice is again determined by the breadth and significance 
of the interests involved. Justice to a person is always easier 
and less admirable than justice to a class, or to interests 
remote from our personal sympathies. Wisdom, in the ethi- 
cal sense, is the determination to know the truth and to 
found action on that knowledge. Primarily it is the knowl- 
edge or understanding of relative values that knowledge 
which enables us to put things in their right order. But it 
involves also the knowledge of means to ends and of the 
consequences of our actb. 

The mere fact that the four fundamental virtues are 
called cardinal implies that there are other dispositions or 
qualities to which we may properly give specific names and 
include in a list of the virtues. Perceiving this fact, Aris- 
totle, who followed immediately after Plato, was led to a 
considerable expansion of the list. Anything like a complete 


list would include, among others, such desirable qualities 
as the economic virtue of thrift; the specific virtue con- 
nected with the sex life, called chastity; and the peculiar 
social virtue of loyalty in its manifold forms. An examina- 
tion of such qualities would show, however, that their 
virtuous character is to be found precisely in the element 
common to all the virtues. Thrift, aside from its elementary 
prudence, is steadfastness of will in choosing future over 
present economic good. Chastity is a form of temperance, 
but its real essence is steadfastness of will in choosing per- 
sonal and other higher* values over the immediate physical 
satisfactions of the sex life. Loyalty, in its varied forms, is 
steadfastness of will in choosing social values rather than 


The preceding way of looking at the virtues is static. 
It seeks to discover that which is cardinal or essential in 
all forms of behavior or types of character to which we 
attribute value. These qualities exist irrespective of levels 
of development in the individual and of the evolution of 
the race. There is, however, another aspect from which 
the character values may be considered and classified, 
namely the developmental. This principle was used by Aris- 
totle and has been followed by many since his time. 

The essential of this view consists in recognizing different 
levels of functioning in man. Artistotle thought of man as 
having three different souls, a vegetative, an animal and 
a rational soul. Man is, so to speak, an epitome of the 
different levels in the development of living things. The 
moral life, or the good life of man, consists in making actual 
the rational potentialities of man, what he called the Nous 
or Reason. 

Now the life of reason consists in two things: (i) in the 
rational control of the impulses or drives that spring from 


the vegetative and animal selves; and (2) in the develop- 
ment of the rational functioning for its own sake. In the 
first case, the task of morality is to make of the natural 
or organic self a rational self. In the technical terms of 
Aristotle's philosophy, the material or possibility of the 
ethical life is just this organic self. The ultimate form or 
actuality of the ethical life is the reason. Virtue is the 
process of the ethical life from its possibilities to its ac- 
tuality: it is thus the essence of the moral life. The natural 
endowments of men are the material of morality, the reason 
is its goal, while the means of developing the natural en- 
dowments into rational activity are virtue. 

Corresponding to this two-fold aspect of the life of reason, 
the virtues may be divided into two classes, the practical 
and the theoretical or Dianoetic. The practical virtues, such 
as courage, temperance, chastity, thrift, are essentially 
steadfastness of will in choosing the higher functioning over 
the lower. It is impossible to formulate particular rules in 
the acquirement of these habits or virtues. The only prin- 
ciple for guidance, according to Aristotle, is that reason 
should always choose the mean between two extremes. Thus 
courage is the mean between the two impulses of cowardice 
and rashness; temperance between intemperance and insen- 
sibility; friendliness between obsequiousness and brusque- 
ness. Moderation is the watchword in the cultivation of 
the practical virtues. 

The dianoetic virtues, on the other hand, are the means 
towards the attainment of pure rationality for its own 
sake. For Aristotle wisdom, in the broadest sense including 
what we have elsewhere called the spiritual values, the 
intellectual, the esthetic and the religious has intrinsic 
value. The theoretical virtues unfold or develop the pure 
activity of the self. As such, they are higher than the prac- 
tical virtues, and give the most noble and perfect pleasure. 

The Aristotelean conception of the dianoetic virtues does 


not appeal greatly to the spirit of our age, partly because 
of our practical or pragmatic temper, and still more, per- 
haps, because of the narrow concept of reason that is dom- 
inant. When we think of reason we are too likely to confine 
it to the purely scientific processes of induction and deduc- 
tion, and no one would be disposed to think of the speci- 
fically "scientific" virtues, important and noble as they 
are, as the highest values of life. On the other hand, it is 
no less clear that the "spiritual values" are higher than 
the other values, and that the virtues connected with their 
choice and realization create character in its highest form. 
The modern democratic dislike for this aristocratic con- 
ception of virtue is in a sense justified. Because in general 
the dianoetic virtues are the higher, it does not follow that 
the characters who possess them are necessarily higher and 
finer than those who possess them not. The simpler virtues 
of the poor, the ordinary "practical virtues" of men, are 
often finer than the excellences of mind. An illustration 
from the kindred sphere of art and esthetic judgment will 
help to make this clear. We all recognize classes and levels 
in the arts. In general, the graphic art of painting, with its 
representation and significant expression, is a higher form 
of art than patterned textiles and rugs. No one would be 
disposed to insist that the latter are on the same level in 
this respect as the former. Yet it is equally true that a fine 
rug may be infinitely more beautiful than a commonplace 
painting on canvas. It is no different with the qualities of 
men. A fine example of simple homely loyalty or courage 
may be infinitely better and more beautiful than a mediocre 
manifestation of the highest spiritual qualities of men. 


The importance of these two ways of looking at the 
virtues lies neither in the fact that they come with the 
authority of the names of Plato and Aristotle, not in any 


claim to finality as lists of virtues, but rather that they 
represent the only two fundamental ways of looking at the 
valuable qualities of men. Greek life is not our life, and 
the description and classification of the specific virtues 
adequate for their times and conditions, may not be ade- 
quate for us. But there is, after all, what Chesterton, has 
called "The Everlasting Man," and both Plato and Aris- 
totle have caught something of his everlasting character. 

Every age must in a sense construe its own virtues for 
itself. In every age character must react in new ways to 
the difficulties of the situations that face it. The moral life 
is not stationary. It is a constant progress, and the virtues 
in which it expresses itself necessarily change from age to 
age. Thus we find that the precise meaning of the cardinal 
virtues alters from time to time. The interpretation which 
we give to these virtues today differs from that which they 
bore in Plato's time. Yet they are fundamentally the same 
aspects of goodness. Similarly, our way of conceiving the 
development or evolution of man differs in many respects 
from that of Aristotle. But the life of the individual and 
its development remain in essentials the same. Man has 
the same raw material of organic life the same rational 
self to make out of the organic self, the same levels of 
being and, in principle, the same scale of values. 

Of the moral life of man, it may be truly said, in the 
words of the famous proverb, "the more it varies the more 
it remains the same. 7 ' "The solid meaning of life," writes 
William James, "is always the same eternal thing 9 ' (italics 
mine), "the marriage namely of some unhabitual ideal, how- 
ever special, with some man's or woman's pains. And, what- 
ever or whenever life may be, there will always be the 
chance for that marriage to take place." * To this we may 
also add that, however varied that life may be, these same 

1 Talks to Teachers, etc., 1899, p. 299. 


qualities, singled out by Plato and Aristotle, will be neces- 
sary to make that life a good life, and will also be for that 
reason always demanded and admired. 1 


We come now to the most difficult question in connec- 
tion with the nature of virtue and its place in the moral 
life the question, namely, to what extent the virtues have 
intrinsic value, apart from their value as means to ends, 
social and individual. 

There can be no question, we saw, that in their primitive 
form the value of virtues is largely instrumental. Even here, 
however, it would be a mistake to think of them as wholly 
so. All that we can learn about the moral sense of primi- 
tive peoples seems to indicate that they also have an im- 
mediate and unaffected joy in character, as they under- 
stand it, for its own sake. Prowess, valor, loyalty, even 
sincerity and truthfulness, they seem to value for their own 
sakes. But whatever we may say of primitive peoples, 
there can be no doubt that on more developed moral levels 
virtues have intrinsic value. Not only does the possession 
of these character values bring a direct and immediate 
satisfaction to those that possess them, but they bring a 
similar joy and satisfaction to those who behold them. 

The attempt is often made to explain how this came about 
psychologically. Just as we come to admire the skill and 
technique of an artist for its own sake, so (it is often said) 
we come to admire manly courage or self-sacrifice quite 
apart from the consideration of its effects. This admiration 

1 This permanence in change of the virtues has been brought out by 
T. H. Green in masterly fashion in his Prolegomena to Ethics, Chapter V. 
His study of Greek and modern conceptions of virtue is a classic in this 
field and should be read by every student of ethics. Of the Platonic or 
Aristotelean conception of virtue he writes that it "is final ir> so far as 
it defines the good as goodness; but as a concrete ideal it was conditioned 
by the moral progress then achieved and is therefore necessarily inade- 


is held to be partly due to a contrast effect the contrast 
between the difficulty of the performance and the ease with 
which it is carried out; partly to the rarity of the quality, 
as when the value of an economic good is increased by its 
rarity and tends to be felt as intrinsic; but chiefly to the 
more or less unconscious sense of the potential good for 
which the acquired disposition stands. 

That these are factors in creating our intrinsic valuation 
of excellence of character cannot be denied. But they do 
not tell the whole story. No such explanations go to the 
root of the matter. The real reason that we value virtues 
for their own sakes is that they are forms of self-realization 
and self-realization is not only an intrinsic good, but the 
highest good. Such values, then, are in a sense final and 
ultimate, since the possession of them is the possession of 
what is good in itself. They are not merely means to living 
well, but part of the actual content of the good life, or rather 
aspects of the nature or character of the very goodness of 
thai life. 

It is sometimes said that such intrinsic evaluation of 
excellence of human character is esthetic and not ethical. 
And in a certain broad sense of the term esthetic, this is 
doubtless true. It has often been maintained that all value 
is ultimately esthetic, just so far as it is fully and genuinely 
value in the strictest sense of the word. The name matters 
little. The important thing is the recognition of the justi- 
fication of the intrinsic value of character as such, as part 
of the very goodness of life. 


It is possible to give a horribly distorted rendering of 
this view of virtue for its own sake. Thus in the Bollenger 
baby case, one Virginia country doctor wrote that the baby 
should have been allowed to live as an opportunity for the 
development in the parents of the virtues of patience and 


self-sacrifice! During the World War a certain public man 
asserted that the war was already won, that it had already 
justified itself in the moral qualities it had engendered in 
men. He was doubtless in error as to the extent and gran- 
deur of these qualities, as a later acquaintance with the 
actualities of war has made quite clear. But even if the 
facts were true, the notions involved in such statements are 
morally repulsive to us. But because this view of the in- 
trinsic value of character may be distorted, it does not de- 
prive it of its essential truth. The patience and self-sacrifice 
of parents, the courage and loyalty of citizens in war are, 
in the first instance, qualities of instrumental value for 
life. As moral rules exist for life, not life for moral rules, 
so virtue exists for life, not life for virtue. But so soon as we 
take a broad and deep enough view of life, we find that 
these qualities are in themselves part of the good life. 

In the light of these considerations, we are able to under- 
stand the persistent tendency towards the ascription of ab- 
solute value to altruism in the ordinary moral sense of man- 
kind and in many of the higher ethical religions. It is not 
difficult to show rationally that unenlightened altruism is 
likely to be self-defeating. We may point out that altruism, 
like egoism, is a "natural," non-moral quality and can be 
moral or immoral according to its mode of exercise. But 
the absolute, mystical evaluation of the altruistic quality 
still persists, if for no other reason than that its presence 
in man is to us an assurance of what humanity may ulti- 
mately become. 


To the question, What ought I to be? traditional ethical 
thought, both Greek and Christian, answers that I ought 
to be virtuous. The ideal man is he who possesses all the 
virtues. In thus defining the ethical end in terms of virtue 
or character, it is assumed, however, not only that the virtues 


or character values have intrinsic value in the sense de- 
scribed, but also that virtue is understood in the broad 
sense of human excellence, and not merely in the narrower 
sense of obedience to the duties. 

The situation here is precisely the same as that which 
we found in the study of the duties. We may formulate a 
table of duties and label it the whole duty of man. But 
there is still the main thing lacking namely the spirit. 
For this reason we found the great moral geniuses formu- 
lating summaries of the commandments in which they seek 
to go back of the duties to the meaning of duty in the life 
of man. We find the same thing in the case of the virtues. 
In summarizing the totality of virtue, they pass from a 
sum of the virtues to the ideal of the "good man." 

To the question, then, what ought I to be, morality is 
likewise not content to say, be virtuous, and to enumerate 
the habits and dispositions that I ought to have or acquire. 
To this way of answering the question, it adds likewise 
maxims which summarize the whole virtue or excellence of 
man. Morality is full of such maxims. In different moods 
and different contexts we may say different things, but they 
all mean very much the same thing. Be yourself; to thine 
own self be true. Be a person and respect others as persons. 
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in 
Heaven is perfect." 

The relation of norms of character to the specific virtues 
may be stated in the following way. Each of the specific 
virtues examined represents some character value. Each 
is in reality a norm in terms of which we value character. 
But underlying all judgments of this type is some ideal of 
human character or personality, as a whole, some concep- 
tion of the ideal self which directs and guides our judg- 
ments. An attempt to characterize, to some degree at least, 
the nature of this ideal is the final task of this chapter. 

The difficulties of this task are very great. If the pre- 


cise meaning of the virtues changes from age to age and 
from class to class, still more do men's ideals of character. 
The "manly man" and the "womanly woman" are in many 
respects quite different persons in different epochs, epochs 
so near together even as the Victorian period and our pres- 
ent time. Still more are the ideals of the Greek, the medieval, 
and modern times different. Nevertheless, if our general 
conceptions are sound, we may at least find some general 
principles of character rating which are universal in nature. 


Let us begin by attempting a definition of character. Our 
attempt will be to find one that will be broad enough to 
cover all its uses, whether psychological, social or specifi- 
cally moral. 

In this more general sense, character, as applied to per- 
sons, is our name for the unified sum of all the elements of 
personality intellectual, emotional, instinctive. In the idea 
of character is included not merely the notion of a sum or 
conglomeration of elements, but a unified sum. This is 
recognized in both the artistic and psychological dealing 
with character. The novelist or playwright recognizes that 
if he is to give a true characterization of the person he must 
get at the unifying element of the person. In that part of 
psychology which deals with personality, or characterology, 
it is recognized that some sort of intuitive process is neces- 
sary and that character cannot be grasped by summing the 
elements of analysis. 

As employed in ethics, the notion of character contains 
the same idea of a unified totality, but in this case the 
emphasis is put upon the beliefs and values which determine 
the conduct of the individual, and about which his per- 
sonality is integrated. Our conception of character is bound 
up with this idea of integration, and we tend, correspond- 
ingly, to value character in terms of the values that serve 


as centers of integration, that are determinative for the life 
of the self as a whole. In our study of the scale of values, 
we found that value to be highest which contributes most 
to the coherent functioning of our life as a whole, and those 
objects are highest which contain in them the greatest poten- 
tiality of bringing about this integration. 


Men are constantly grading or rating the characters of 
their fellows. They are constantly valuing them, not only 
in terms of what they have and what they do, but also of 
what they are. 

Even in such a practical publication as Bradstreet's, 
which gives the rating of business men and concerns, the 
amount of "credit" to which a person or institution is en- 
titled is given in part in terms of character in the ethical 
sense. One man with a property of $500,000 may be graded 
as "A," the highest class, while another, with the same 
amount of property may be graded as "E," which means 
that he is unreliable. 

Rating of this sort is in terms of what men are, and what 
they are is determined in terms of what they have done. 
Their character, which is thus so important a part of their 
"credit," may then be said to be an instrumental value. 
This character is of course, in the first instance, rated from 
the standpoint of what we may call the more economic 
virtues such as thrift, honesty, the value of a man's word 
or promises, etc. But the rating really includes much more 
than this. Evidence that a man is intemperate, loose in 
sexual matters, unjust in his personal or social relations, 
inevitably affects judgment as to his credit in the financial 
sense, the reason being that, while we may analyze or sep- 
arate out the different qualities, the individual is after all 
an integral whole. Here also the chain is no stronger than 
its weakest link. 


This general assumption underlying all character rat- 
ing, from the most practical and commercial, to the highest 
ethical and esthetic judgment develops into a norm 
which we may describe as the norm of integrity. Integrity 
in the practical sense has special reference to uprightness 
in mutual dealings, trustworthiness in those relations which 
are developed in such institutional forms of life as property 
and the family, but it comprehends in the end the entire 
personality. We may describe it as integrity of life. This 
norm of character springs directly out of the ethical end 
or ideal of self-realization. We can describe the good of 
man in no other way than in terms of the realization or 
fulfillment of the varied functionings that make up his 
being or nature. In each realization or fulfillment, however, 
the self is involved; realization implies self-realization. 
Similarly we can describe the good man only in terms of the 
varied qualities that are acquired in these functionings. 
But the separate qualities are so related that they inevitably 
make a character a .harmonious or inharmonious whole. 

In the application of this norm two ways of judging, or 
two types of judgment on character, may be distinguished. 
The first of these may be called the quantitative and has to 
do with the strength or weakness of the character. The root 
meaning of the term virtue we found to be strength, and 
this meaning survives in all our judgments upon character, 
from the most primitive to the most highly developed. The 
common element in all the virtues we found to be steadfast- 
ness of will in choosing higher over lower values. In apply- 
ing as a norm of character judgment any one of the virtues, 
one is applying also the norm of strength of character, and 
this strength or steadfastness is part of the ideal of integrity. 

The ideal or norm of integrity includes then always the 
quantitative notion of the strength or weakness of char- 
acter, but it includes also a qualitative notion, the norm of 
harmony or totality. It is true that the notion of strength 


implies also to a degree that of harmony. Imperfect inte- 
gration, lack of harmony among our impulses and desires, 
means weakness. A divided self is a powerless self. But a 
well integrated personality implies something more than the 
mere absence of conflict. Harmony is a positive concept 
and the objective reality for which it stands has intrinsic 

Primarily esthetic in meaning (in fact first used in con- 
nection with music), the notion of harmony has been grad- 
ually extended to the sphere of morals, and ultimately to 
that of knowledge also. The notion of unity in variety, and 
of a harmonious whole, enters into all our judgments on 
personality. The "all-round man" of ordinary speech is in 
reality but a popular way of expressing this norm. We 
realize perfectly well that men may manifest the basic vir- 
tues in connection with any specialized function or activity, 
but we also realize that even such virtues as courage and 
self-restraint, when made thus merely instrumental to some 
narrow end, may involve defect or distortion of character. 
We speak then of a man having the "defects of his quali- 
ties." In the last analysis such defects appear to rise out of 
lack of wisdom in the broad sense of the term, or as we 
say now-a-days, lack of a "sense of values." 

It seems scarcely possible adequately to interpret our 
judgments on character and personality without bringing 
in what may be described as an esthetic element. The Greek 
ideal of the kalokagathos, literally rendered, the "good and 
beautiful man," was determined by the specific conditions 
of Hellenic life and culture, but it appears to have in it an 
element that is independent of time and place. As the 
specific virtues have an intrinsic quality, or in other words 
are aspects of the very nature of character, of the very 
goodness of life itself, so integration, wholeness or harmony 
of life, are not only means to the good life but of the very 
essence of that life. 


Such judgments are inevitably esthetic in character. In so 
far as human character or personality becomes the material 
of art of any kind, the artist inevitably seeks to catch this 
quality of wholeness, or lack of it. The good portrait painter 
is not he who reproduces in life-like detail the particular 
features of his sitter, although that is of course to a degree 
necessary, but rather he who catches the element of unity 
in the character. Good "characterization" in novel or play 
and even in biography is not an external summing up of 
qualities, but rather an intuitive grasp of the integrating 
principle that makes of the character a whole. Apprehen- 
sion of moral character is of like nature. A moral judgment 
on character is valid only in so far as it expresses the truth, 
only in so far as the character on which the judgment is 
passed has been truthfully apprehended. Such apprehension 
of truth of character is, however, always impossible without 
that intuition which is akin to the esthetic. It is for these 
reasons that the notions of the good, the true, and the beau- 
tiful have been said to be bound together by "a cord not 
lightly broken" and this cord seems to be the notion, com- 
mon to them all, of harmony and of wholeness. 

The norm of character here developed is manifestly ab- 
stract and formal. It gives the form of the good life rather 
than the content. For this reason, like the ethical end itself 
of total self-realization it is empty and practically use- 
less until it is filled with concrete content. 

In our actual judgment on human character, therefore, 
we use standards or ideals which embody this norm in more 
concrete form. The relativity is apparent in our norms of 
character as a whole. It is quite evident, for instance, that 
as the soldierly virtues are different from the priestly, as 
those of the man of action differ from those of the man of 
reflection, so our ideals of character will vary. All will em- 
body the norm of integrity, but will vary in the manner in 
which the qualities of men are integrated. 


This general rule has particular application to our ideals 
of character of the two sexes. The "manly man" and the 
"womanly woman 7 ' are both norms that embody the human 
ideal, but they have concrete differences which can not be 
wiped out without confusion of values and the distortion 
and ugliness that follows all such confusion. The womanly 
woman is womanly only in so far as her character is inte- 
grated, in so far as it manifests both strength and harmony. 
But this integration has its own quality of excellence. By 
the very nature of the case, the chief integrating factor in 
her life is wifehood and maternity. In the fulfillment of 
these functions the fundamental human "virtues" will come 
into play, but they will have a specific character, and the 
"dominant" in the harmony will be different from what it is 
in the case of man. Strength will be there, but it will be a 
different kind of strength. Harmony will be there, but to the 
sensitive ear a different, perhaps a finer kind of harmony. 


The human self is in a sense born and not made. In an- 
other sense it is made and not born. This dual character of 
the self is reflected in our maxims. In one context we arc 
bidden "to be ourselves," in another to "make something of 

The first command implies that we have certain natural 
possibilities or endowments, and that the task of self- 
realization is largely that of removing the impediments or 
inhibitions to self-expression. The second implies that the 
natural self is but raw material out of which a true or 
genuine self is to be made. While the former conception is 
not without its element of truth, the latter is the more im- 
portant notion if the true self is a social self, as described 
in Chapter VII. 

The making of the self is in a sense then the final task 


of morality. "The problem of morality is the formation out 
of the body of original, instinctive impulses which com- 
pose the natural self, of a voluntary self in which socialized 
desires and affections are dominant, and in which the con- 
trolling principle of deliberation is the love of the objects 
which will make this transformation possible." 1 Such a 
self is a virtuous self. 

In this transformation two aspects are to be noted, the 
natural self and the voluntary self into which it is to be 
transformed. The first character of this voluntary self is 
that it is a social self, one in which socialized desires and 
affections are dominant. Such a social self can be created 
only by the love of certain objects certain social ideals 
and models, types of character in which socialized desires 
and affections have already become dominant. As the artist 
begins by imitating certain masters and only gradually finds 
himself, so in the moral life the individual starts with cer- 
tain social norms and ideals. 

But it is always a natural self that is thus to be trans- 
formed into a voluntary self; and the natural self includes, 
not only the original and instinctive impulses that are com- 
mon to all, but the specific qualities and endowments that 
make up the individual. The voluntary self has therefore 
always a social character, but it is also a unique and indi- 
vidual whole. The task of morality must be conceived then 
as going beyond the creation of socialized desires and affec- 
tions; it must include the transformation of the natural 
self, which is the unique possession of each individual, into 
an integrated whole which has its own peculiar and intrinsic 

It is at this point that we see the true relation of virtue 
in the narrow sense to virtue in the sense of human excel- 
lence in general. The task of morality is the making of a 

1 Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, p. 397- 


voluntary self, and no such self is possible without the 
specific virtues. Virtue in the narrow sense was, for Aristotle, 
the means of developing the natural activities of men into 
rational activity, which is the sum and substance of the good 
life for men. This rational activity is precisely that integra- 
tion of life which makes the voluntary self, and this inte- 
gration is brought about by the love of objects that transcend 
ourselves. It is only in this sense that virtue may be called 
the highest good; but such virtue will always include those 
fundamental and universal character values which are the 
indispensable conditions of self-realization. 



* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. III. 

* J. Dewey and J. H. Tufts, Ethics, Chap. XIV. 

* W. K. Wright, General Introduction to Ethics, Chaps. VIII 

and IX. 
H. Sturt, Human Value, Chap. III. 

* T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. V. 
I. Edman, Human Traits and Their Social Significance. 

* Aristotle, Nicomachccan Ethics, Bks. II and ITT. 
W. E. Hocking, Human Nature and Its Remaking. 


* L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, Chap. VI. 
F. C. Sharp, Ethics, Chap. XI. 

R. H. Lowie, Primitive Society, Chap. XIII. 

Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Vol. II, pp. 19-29. 

William McDougall, Outline of Psychology, Chaps. V and 


A, F. Shand, The Foundations of Character. 
C. L. Sherman, The Moral Selj, Chaps. II, III. 
A. A. Roback, The Psychology of Character. 
J. MacCunn, The Making of Character. 
J. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, Part II. 





At the beginning of our study we found a difference be- 
tween ethics and such sciences as psychology and biology, 
for instance, which is best expressed by the distinction 
between normative and descriptive. Ethics is a normative 
science in that, through the study of human ends and values, 
ifseelTs to establish standards or norms in terms of which 
human conduct can be evaluated. Such standards have now 
been formulated in the fields of human rights, duties and 
virtues more particularly in connection with the institu- 
tions of property and the family. 

It is, however, precisely this character of ethics as 
normative that makes it also a part of philosophy, and its 
more fundamental problems ultimately philosophical in 
character. All sciences, even the purely descriptive, have 
their philosophical side and ultimately trench upon ques- 
tions which are called metaphysical. Both physics and 
biology the two sciences in which fundamental conceptions 
are today most in flux are becoming increasingly philo- 
sophical in character. But this general tendency is pre- 
eminently present in all knowledge or science that deals 
with norms. This is due to the peculiar nature of a norm, as 
distinguished from a law in the ordinary sense of descrip- 
tive science. 

A standard or norm of conduct is in a sense a description 
also a description of the morally good or the humanly 
valuable. As such it purports to give us a true account of 



matter of fact of what are human rights, of what are our 
actual duties, and of what actually constitutes the good or 
virtuous man. But a norm or standard is a description of a 
particular kind or, better expressed, it is something more 
than a mere description of the matter of fact of the moral 
life; it is at the same time the delineation of an ideal. 
A standard is a standard precisely because it is an ideal 
tRat is meant to be realized or carried out in coiidut. 
K norm is a norm just because it tells us what ought to be 


It is because then of this character~ot norms as ideals 
that the philosophical problems peculiar to morals arise. 
A norm is a norm because it tells us what ought to be, but 
knowledge is usually knowledge of what actually is; how 
then can we have valid knowledge of what ought to be? 
A norm is an ideal and, as an ideal, is meant to be realized 
or carried out in conduct. But such an ideal implies that it 
can be carried out. How do we know that human beings 
have the ability to modify their conduct in the direction of 
an ideal (that is are free) ; or how do we know that the 
world is actually of such a nature as to make realization of 
our ideals possible? In other words, the whole "science" of 

ethics makes certain assumptions ami' the determination 
qfthe truth or validity of these assumptions takes us beyond 
morals themselves into moral philosophy. 


This situation is generally recognized by moral philoso- 
phers. It is generally understood that there are certain 
postulates or presuppositions without which morality would 
be an illusion or at least unintelligible. The recognition of 
the fact is as old as ethics itself, but the first clear-cut state- 
ment we owe to Kant. Now Kant not only recognized the 
situation described; he also gave to these assumptions which 
we all more or less clearly make, a special name which has 


played a great role in all ethical and philosophical thinking 
ever since. He called them the Postulates of Morality, and, 
according to his view, the necessary postulates included the 
reality of freedom of the will, belief in immortality, and the 
existence of God. In hisHFamous "work, 'T^g Critique oj the 

Practical Reason, he showed how these postulates are as 
necessary for morality as certain principles of the theoret- 
ical reason are necessary for physical science. In another 
work, The Fundamental Principles oj the Metaphysic oj 
Ethics, he developed even more fully what we have described 
as the philosophical side of ethics, or moral philosophy. 

Kant was not only a great moralist but a great philoso- 
pher, in the larger sense of including all science and knowl- 
edge in the range of his thought, and in the sense also of 
thinking things out in a stubborn and comprehensive way 
not common in ordinary thought. We shall do well to follow 
his lead in this part of our study. We shall not want to 
follow him slavishly. We have already found it necessary to 
differ from his formalistic conceptions of morality. It may 
turn out that he is also wrong in his conception that these 
postulates are necessary for morality. But he at least affords 
a useful starting point for our own explorations in the field 
of moral philosophy. 



It is generally recognized that all knowledge or science, 
of whatever kind, proceeds on certain assumptions or postu- 
lates, themselves not demonstrable. Each individual science 
has postulates peculiar to it. Thus geometry postulates cer- 
tain truths, formerly called axioms, on which it builds its 
structure. But physical and descriptive science, as a whole, 
proceeds on certain general assumptions which determine 
the methods of such science. Of these the most fundamental, 
perhaps, is that of the uniformity of nature, or the reign 


of law, and of the principle of universal causation, closely 
connected with it. It is generally recognized that these be- 
liefs are not demonstrable by experience, but are presup- 
posed by experience. Formerly they were called axioms, or 
self-evident truths of reason. It is now quite generally recog- 
nized, however, that they are not axioms but postulates. In 
this respect, then, ethics and ethical knowledge but share 
the general character of all knowledge. There is, however, 
a difference between the postulates of ethics and those of 
the descriptive sciences which must first be made clear. 

A posUilate^j^^ 
our reason, in contrast to an axiom which is conceived of 

as~imme3iately self-evident To intuition. First userl in the 
science of geometry, the notion was later extended to science 
in general and ultimately, by Kant, from the merely theo- 
retical to the practical or moral reason. It is with the latter 
that we are primarily concerned, but we must first note the 
difference between a postulate in the moral sphere and one 
in that of purely theoretical knowledge. 

Kant was quite clear in his own mind that there is a 
fundamental difference, and I think we shall find that he 
is right. A postulate in the realm of the purely scientific or 
theoretical reason is only for the purpose of explanation. 
It does not much matter from the standpoint of life and of 
practice, whether I make the postulates of Euclidian or 
non-Euclidian geometry. The same is true of what we call 
an hypothesis in science. Whether I make the hypothesis that 
light is corpuscular or an undulatory ether is important 
for scientific knowledge, and for practical control of light 
based upon that knowledge, but it is a matter of relative in- 
difference for life in its moral aspect. But the role of a 
postulate in the practical life of morality is of quite a dif- 
ferent character. Here, as Kant says, u a postulatejs_a_r^- 
quirement of practical reason^ it is based onjijluty, that^of 
making something^ the highest good, the object of my will 


so as to promote it with all my powers. In which case I must 
suppose its possibility and consequently all the conditions 
necessary thereto, God, freedom and immortality." Kant 
goes on to point out that, whereas belief in the sphere of 
science is not necessary, anETeven sometimes not 

rational faith is necessary in the realm of 
practice. 1 __ 

It is probable that if we were merely moral beings, prac- 
tical in Kant's sense of the word, we should raise no ques- 
tion either about the authority or validity of our moral 
distinctions and judgments, or about belief in those things 
that seem to be implied in moral life and moral judgment. 
So long as one is in action, onecan scarcely doubt that he 
7s irceT While one is living to the full, it is hard to believe 
that life will ever stop. In so far as one is mastered by some 
purpose in life, one rarely doubts that that purpose has 
some significance and is in some relation to larger purposes 
in society and the world. While one is in the midst of the 
strife of life, seeking to bring about the reign of right and 
justice in the world, it is hard not to believe that there is a 
power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness a 
moral world-order of which our particular legal and political 
order is but a part. These are, in very truth, "the truths 
men live by," and for these truths to turn into error and 
illusion in our hands, is in a very real sense for us to cease 
to live. 

But man is not merely a moral being, not merely a man 
of practical reason in Kant's sense. He is also a man of 
reflection a theoretical being. His will is ofterr "sicklied 
o'er with the pale cast of thought." With his abstract rea- 
son he often denies the very things whicfi" his ' 

tical reason asserts. There is thus a contradiction or dualism 
in tKtTvery hearTof his nature. This dualism, apart from 

1 Kant, The Critique of the Practical Reason, Section VIII. The refer- 
ence may be found in Rand's Modern Classical Philosophers, pp. 484-85. 


any other reasons, would suffice to make of him necessarily 
a philosopher in the broader sense of the word. For it is 
just such contradictions in our thought and knowledge that 
compel us to think things through and this thinking things 
through is the very essence of philosophy. Curiosity alone 
suffices^ a motive for the discovery of factsTas the driving 

?nrrf>_for ^riVnrp^iru^wr-cPTTOP- but philosophy begins at 

that point where curiosity gives place to the need for under- 
standing. In other words, the philosopher seeks to under- 
stand life and the world in till its aspectsTOnc of his chief 
problems, therefore, is to coordinate the world of morality, 
with its postulates, and the world of physical science, as 
determined by its postulates or assumptions, in a more com- 
prehensive whole. This is in part the task of the following 


There are two ideas prevalent in recent thought which 
stand in the way of a proper understanding and apprecia- 
tion of the line of thought upon which we are about to 
enter. Against these the student should be constantly on his 
guard if he is not to fall into fatal fallacies. These ideas, 
expressed in the slang of the present, are "wishful think- 
ing" and "rationalization." 

It is, for example, quite easy and almost natural to think 
of these moral postulates as cases of wishful thinking. 
There can be no question that men, for instance, wish to 
be free and in the majority of cases desire immortality or 
progress. They likewise would, in most cases, like to believe 
in the existence of God if it were possible. Is it not, there- 
fore, quite likely that these "postulates" are but our wishes 
writ large, and any arguments, developed in justification of 
these assumptions or postulates, rationalizations of our 

Now the first jjiing to consider is thaf%ll vital and s^g- 


nificant thought is wishful thinking. It is quite certain that 
we do not find truth of any kind unless we want it. It is 
also quite certain that the fact of our thinking being wish- 
ful does not exclude the possibility of its being true. If this 
were the case, the attainment of any truth would be impos- 
sible. Why then, since 1 wishful thinking is present in all 
science, do people think that it is so much more fatal in 
the sphere of morals and human values? The reason is not 
far to seek. We do want these Jthings to be true because, as 
has already been pointed out, significant action depends 
upon their being true. This means, however, merely that 
we must be a little more on our guard in the sphere of our 
practical reason. Desire is harmful to reason only when we 
are unconscious of it. When we are conscious of it, we can 
allow for it. More than this, we can take it into account as 
one of the things that must be explained and interpreted 
in any complete philosophy. The fact that men do demand 
or postulate certain things, is itself a significant fact and 
one which no philosophy can afford to ignore. 

The same line of reasoning applies to the charge of 
rationalization. Again, all knowledge or science is in a 
sense rationalization. The famous saying of Hegel, that "the 
real is the rational and the rational is the real," has often 
been severely criticized; but it remains true that this is the 
one assumption or postulate common to both science and 
morals. It is true that morality demands a rational uni- 
verse and in a sense the moral philosopher wants to ration- 
alize it. In a universe at its heart irrational, no significant 
moral action would be possible. But it is equally true that 
science demands a rational universe and wants to make it 
rational or intelligible. In a universe irrational at its core 
no scientific activity and knowledge would be really possible. 

Wherein then lies the difference between the two? We 
shall find it, I tfeink, in the fact that a rational universe 
appears, at first sight, to be a different thing for morality 


and for science. For the latter it seems, for instance, that 
the universe to be rational must be determined, and so the 
scientist seeks to find law and determinism in it. For mo- 
rality, on the other hand, a rational universe must be one, 
in which freedom is possible, so the moral philosopher seeks 
to find freedom in it. There is no real reason why one proce- 
dure should be "rationalization" in the bad sense any more 
than the other. The- philosopher at least refuses to start 
with either prejudice. Perhaps when he thinks things 
through, both positions will be found to have their element 
of truth. This at least is the possibility with which the 
philosopher starts. It is possible that it is also the conclu- 
sion, to which he will finally come. 


The task of the moral philosopher is then clear: to co- 
ordinate the world of morality with its postulates and the 
world of physical science, as determined by its postulates 
and assumptions, in a more comprehensive whole. The prob- 
lem may be stated in another way in such fashion as to 
bring it into relation with the main ideas of the Introductory 
chapter. Ethics was defined as the science of values. In so 
defining it, it was necessary to contrast the world of values 
with the world of things. The task of the philosopher is to 
determine the relations of these two worlds. 

This problem is recognized by all schools of philosophy 
as the fundamental task of the modern world. In the words 
of John Dewey, "Thus is created the standing problem of 
modern philosophy: the relation of science to the things 
we prize and love and which have authority in the direc- 
tion of conduct." l What then have science and philosophy to 
say of these things which we prize and love, of our values? 
What have they to say of the authority of these things in 

1 John Dewey, The Quest for Certainty, p. 103. 


the direction of conduct? Of the reality of these values, and 
of the truth of the beliefs that have been uniformly asso- 
ciated with them in the past? Are our beliefs in the au- 
thority of conscience, in the freedom of the will, in moral 
progress, and in a moral world-order still justified, or have 
the "acids of modernity," the critical work of scientific 
thought, eaten away the foundations of our values? This 
constitutes a statement, in general terms, of certain prob- 
lems to be considered in detail in the following chapters. 
The discussions that follow should be looked upon, not so 
much as final solutions, as an attempt to present the present 
situation in thought concerning these matters. 


J. W. Hudson, The Truths We Live By, Part I. 

W. Lippman, A Preface to Morals. 

Tolstoy, My Confession, On Life. 

E. S. Brightman, Introduction to Philosophy, Chaps. IX, X. 

J. A. Leighton, The Field of Philosophy, Part III; Man and 

The Cosmos, Bks. IV and V. 

H. Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. Ill, Chaps. I, II. 
C. P. Conger, A Course in Philosophy, Chaps. XLV, XL1X. 
J. W. Scott, Kant on The Moral Life. 
Warner Fite, Moral Philosophy. 
J. Royce, The Spirit of Modern Philosophy. 
J. Dewey, The Quest For Certainty. 
W. M. Urban, The Intelligible World, Metaphysics and 


W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, 
T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics. 




Philosophical problems have in a degree dogged our steps 
throughout the preceding treatment of the field of morals. 
We have talked as though we could know what is true or 
valid in morals. We have talked as though the will were free 
to choose among values and between modes of conduct, and 
were able to mold life and character in the direction of an 
ideal. We have talked as though there were development 
and progress in the moral life of man. All these things may 
be doubted and, with their doubt, we are led into problems 
that arc philosophical in nature. Of these problems, how- 
ever, the one that appears earliest and is most insistent is 
the question of moral knowledge. 

How then do we know that this act is right and the other 

wrong? How do we know that the values we give to things 
are the true values? This is almost the first question that 
any student of ethics asks. Is it not true that therg ^ noth- 
ing^ good or bad but thinking makes it so? Is it not true, 
after all, that moral judgments are matters of individual 
opinion or feeling? In one sense this scepticism is wholly 
unwarranted. So far as social agreement is concerned, there 
is a large degree of objectivity and certainty in morals. 
Agreement on moral principles is much more fundamental 
than any disagreements. But what ultimate validity have 
these social agreements or "conventions"? In one sense we 
do know the difference between right and wrong or what 



is called right and wrong but how do we know that we, 
and the whole race, are not fooling ourselves? How do we 
know that this "knowledge' 7 is really and ultimately valid? 
It is with this more profound moral scepticism that we are 
here concerned. 

The problem of knowledge arises inevitably in connec- 
tion- with any science. Even in the physical sciences one 
can not go far without raising questions of epistemology. 
After all, we know physical objects only through our senses, 
and these senses may deceive us. How do we know that the 
qualities of things, as they appear to us, correspond to the 
things as they are in themselves? But such questions are, in 
a way, even more important in ethics. Just as belief is of 
more significance here than in the physical sciences, so 
scepticism in morals is a more serious thing practically 
than scepticism in science. There are many people who hold 
that the world is not round, but their scepticism regarding 
this belief of science does not much concern us. In moral 
and political matters the situation is quite different. 

There is a second reason why the problem of knowledge 
in morals is peculiarly important. It is widely held that the 
validity of morals is somehow bound up with a particular 
theory of moral knowledge. If we can say that moral prin- 
ciples or norms are innate or intuitive, it is felt that they 
are in some way more valid than if we arrive at them by 
the more ordinary processes of experience. On the other 
hand, to explain the origin of anything is for many people 
the same thing as explaining it away. A distinguished agnos- 
tic once observed that in these days Christianity was not 
refuted, it was explained. And for many people to explain 
conscience is somehow to explain it away. In any case, 
many moralists have believed that there is a special kind of 
moral knowledge, and have often assumed a special organ 
for such knowledge, called Conscience. 



Conscience may be defined as the sense or consciousness 
of moral worth or value, or their opposites, as manifested 
in conduct or character, together with the consciousness of 
personal obligation to act in accordance with the dictates 
of morality, and the consciousness of merit or guilt in so 
acting. More precisely, conscience is the recognition by the 
individual of the right or wrong of conduct, and tfofi ac- 
knowledgment of the ultimate moral laws or principles upon 
which tEese moral judgments concerning conduct ancj char- 
acter rest^ together with the attendant a3nsiott3ties~-Ql 
personal obligation and of meritj^guilt. 
"""TKeterm conscience (from the Latin con-scicntta) means 
literally "knowledge with"; but its specific ethical signifi- 
cance was only gradually acquired. It is, for instance, not 
used as a technical term of ethics by the classical philos- 
ophers. The consciousness of moral value and of moral law 
is designated by both Aristotle and the Stoics simply as 
reason, or the ruling part of the soul. The elaboration of 
the doctrine of conscience as a special form of knowledge 
is due to the scholastic writers who made dominant in their 
writings the conception of moral laws as laws of God, re- 
vealed by him in the soul of man laws written not only 
on tables of stone, but on the "fleshly tables of the heart." 


The theory of conscience, or of moral knowledge, thus 
formulated is called intuitional, and the moralists who have 
held it are described as the intuitional school. It consists 
essentially in the view that the knowledge of jjg!iL_and 
wrong is immediate or intuitive" and not the result of 
processes of association and reflection, as held by the em- 
pirical view of conscience. With this intuitional view is 
ordinarily, although not necessarily, associated the view 

that conscience is somehow innate or inborn, andnpJL_de^ 

rived historically either in the inriu/irhiai 01 fV 

Historically, intuitionalism has in the main been asso- 
ciated with Formalism in ethics. According to the latter, 
acts are intrinsically right or wrong without reference to 
It is only natural that if this is the case, 

this inherent Tightness or wrongness should be supposed to 
be knowable, not by teleological reasoning, but by some 
immediate insight or intuition of the "moral sense." 

Common sense, in one of its moods at least, is strongly 
imbued with the feeling that there is such immediate intui- 
tion. George Sand tells the story of a company of wandering 
actors, shipwrecked on a barren rock in the Adriatic Sea. 
They are without food and death by starvation is imminent. 
The captain of the vessel dies and one of the actors throws 
himself upon the corpse with the intention of devouring it. 
But the leader of the company grapples with him, and after 
a desperate struggle succeeds in throwing the body into the 
sea. As George Sand tells the story, it is clear how she ex- 
pected this act to be regarded by the reader as a sort of 
"instinctive, " intuitive, revulsion against the horrid deed, as 
some profound reaction of the soul, deeper than reason. 
In like manner, it is felt that there is in man an innate 
repugnance to various other acts, such as incest, and that, 
when such repugnance is not felt, it is due to the clouding 
over of the moral sense by passion or by sophistical reason- 
ing. The allowing of the Bollenger baby to die was felt by 
upholders of this view to be a violation of one of the deepest 
intuitions of conscience, a crime against mankind rather 
than the service to humanity it pretended to be. 

Is man then endowed with a native and inexplicable 
power of discerning right or wrong, or are his moral judg- 
ments explicable by reference to development, environment 
and education? Is conscience in any sense a special organ 
or faculty of special knowledge; or is it rather merely con- 


sciousness in so far as it is concerned with a special class 
of objects and judgments? This question has been hotly 
debated in practical morals, no less than in the realm of 
ethical theory and philosophy. It is precisely because, to 
many minds, the authority of conscience is bound up with 
its intuitive and inexplicable character, the validity of moral 
distinctions with thek immediacy and innateness, that the 
entire problem has bulked so large in ethical discussion. 


As we should expect, the view has been held in several 
different forms. The views men have held of the nature of 
conscience have been greatly influenced by analogies taken 
from our knowledge of the external world of things. In gen- 
eral there are two sources oL knowledge, thespnsps and the 

reason. When men came to the problems of moral knowl- 
e3ge,lt was only natural that they should think that our 
knowledge of right or wrong is given to us by some special 
moral sense, or by some special intuitions of reason, such as 
the "self-evident axioms" of mathematics and logic. In any 
case, it is precisely along these lines that the theories have 
been formed, and we may, for our purpose, consider Intui- 
tionism as divided into these two forms. 

The Belief in a special moral sense fa quite natural to 
popular thought and is well jjlu&trnted hy the ".fnry tnlren 
from George Sand. The well-nigh universal presence in men, 
at least on a certain level of development, of many such 
immediate reactions and unquestioned judgments, leads 
easily to the idea of a special sense or faculty for the discern- 
ment of moral truth. This popular belief was elevated into 
a theory by certain writers of the eighteenth century at a 
time when the origin of all knowledge through the senses 
was emphasized, and the field of sense perception was being 
exhaustively explored. Sometimes the moral sense has been 


thought of as feeling, sometimes more on the analogy of the 
physical senses, in which case the good or bad of an act 
has been conceived of as a quality, like a color or an odor, 
for which there is a special sense, similar to the senses with 
which we apprehend the other qualities. In either case, the 
essential point of the theory is that we are supposed to 
sense or intuit immediately the righ| 0F 'wrong" n 

acts, whereas in the theory of a specialjuornl r (?a^ft-44-fc 
Father 7 general principles or moral axioms that are thus 
apprehended. " ~ ~~ 

The theory of a special moral sense, although still not 
without its supporters, is in general discredited. The plausi- 
bility of this view arises chiefly from the fact that in de- 
veloped moral characters moral habits become a sort of 
second nature, and our reactions have an immediacy that 
is scarcely distinguishable from that of instinct or sense 
perception. There can be little doubt that, for all practical 
purposes, we have such a "moral sense." We are entirely 
justified, practically, in saying of a man who does not, as we 
say, feel that certain things are wrong that he lacks moral 
sense. In extreme cases, as the law rightly holds, he is a 
"moral imbecile." But the theoretical question is another 
story. We have become too sophisticated, both by history 
and psychology, to be intuitionists in this nai've sense. The 
entire drift of modern science is against it. 

The objections to this theory have already been stated 
in connection with our criticisms of one statement of for- 
malism, with which this form of intuitionism is necessarily 
connected. 1 In this connection we need only emphasize two 
points, especially relevant to the present discussion. 

Anthropology shows us clearly that none of these funda- 
mental repugnances is native. The history of morals makes 

1 Chapter III, pp. 56 f. 


it impossible to doubt that there are no single acts whether 
of murder, incest, unchastity, falsehood, or what not that 
have not, at one time or another, been not only uncon- 
demned, but actually approved. The primitive woman who 
refused to allow her newly born child to be put to death in 
accordance with the unwritten law of her tribe, would have 
been shunned as unvirtuous by her kinsfolk, as would the 
Spartan mother who connived to save her weakling offspring 
from the rigors of death by exposure. Virtue consisted in 
doing Jjiat which was good for society and It was not for 
fhe^ood of Island-dwelling or nomadic tribes to multiply 
rapidly, just as it was not good for war-like Sparta to rear 
children of an inferior physical type. 

In the second place, modern psychology recognizes no 
such immediate and underived moral judgments as this 
theory presupposes. It shows us, on the one hand, that there 
is in these judgments nothing analogous to the simple senses 
of taste or color and, on the other hand, that these reactions 
which we call "instinctive" are really not instinctive at all, 
but have the character of acquired habits. Both the ap- 
parent immediacy and the apparent universality of these 
judgments are now explained in terms of empirical and 
evolutionary conceptions. 


The second form of intuitionism, the theory of a special 
moral reason, is not so nai've as the doctrine of moral sense. 
According to this view, conscience does not give us infallible 
knowledge of the right or wrong of particular acts, but 
rather general principles which apply to classes of acts. 
This form of intuitionism, sometimes called "dogmatic in- 
tuitionism," was that maintained by the scholastic moralists, 
and continued by many modern ethical writers, such as 
Butler and Price. In the more philosophical form of Kant, 
a synthesis of practical rules is sought by the reduction of 


them to a common principle, but the essentials of rational- 
istic intuitionism are still maintained. 

Those who hold this view, it is important to note, can 
perfectly well accept the results of anthropology and psy- 
chology and still maintain their position. With them it is 
not a question whether morals have or have not changed or 
developed, but rather whether we have any principles of 
reason for testing the moral norms we now have. It is not a 
question whether moral sentiments are or are no innate in 
"any biological sense, but rather whether there an* 

judgments self-evident to reason. The moral intuitionist is 
no more under the compulsion of showing that the savage 
or the new born babe has his moral judgments than the 
mathematician or logician is compelled to show that his 
"necessary truths" are part of the mental equipment of the 
infant or the primitive. 

This form of intuitionism is, as we have seen, inspired 
by conceptions and ideals of knowledge in mathematics and 
logic rather than by those of sense perception. In mathe- 
matics, for instance, mathematical reasoning is supposed to 
go back for its validity to certain axioms which are imme- 
diately apprehended and which are universal and necessary. 
The process of reasoning is mediate and hypothetical that 
is the truth of one proposition is conditioned by another. 
But such chains of reasoning must ultimately go back to 
propositions which are categorical and unconditional. So, it 
is argued, must it be in morals. We may reason hypothet- 
ically and teleologically from means to ends, but somewhere 
in our argument we must come upon categorical proposi- 
tions which are self-evident, 

The difficulties in this conception are of another 
sort than those brought against the theory of a special 
moral sense. JVloralit^Js^ to be sure, a matter of reason 
rather than of sense or feeling, but it is just as difficult to 
establish immediate intuitions of moral reason as it is to 


establish a special moral sense. One of the best criticisms 
of this form of intuitionism is made by Sidgwick in his 
Methods of Ethics. He points out that the "middle axioms 1 ' 
of morality have neither the clearness nor distinctness, nor 
the universality of application, characteristic of logical or 
mathematical "axioms." Commands such as Thou shalt not 
steal, etc., do not have these characteristics. If, however, 
we fall back upon such a general maxim as that of Kant, we 
have something empty and formal and not applicable to 
the concrete matter of morality. 1 

These criticisms are undoubtedly cogent. But the chief 
difficulty for the modern man in accepting this theory is to 
be found, I think, in our more recent views of the nature of 
reason in general. This theory of self-evident intuitions was, 
we have seen, formed on the analogy of self-evident axioms 
of mathematics and logic. But even in these spheres of 
knowledge we have come to recognize that the things we 
called axioms are really not self-evident truths, but rather 
postulates. The axiom of Euclidian geometry, that parallel 
lines never meet, is not self-evident, but rather a postulate 
of one kind of geometry. Other postulates are possible. 
Similarly the so-called axiom of universal causation is no 
longer conceived as an axiom but rather as a postulate. 
To one who has accepted this change in our ways of think- 
ing, it seems even more certain that axioms of moral reason 
are postulates also. 


Despite these criticisms of intuitionism, in its two most 
common forms, this standpoint in morals constantly re- 
appears in ever more refined and critical forms. The reason 
for this is simply the need of thinking things out which is 
the peculiar character of philosophical thought. We may 

1 Methods of Ethics, Book III, Chapters i and n. 


say without hesitation that any philosophical theory of 
ethics must contain an intuitive element somewhere. 
* "The Historic forms of intuitionism have been rendered 
untenable by a confusion of ideas that it has been hard to 
drive from the human mind, but which is gradually becom- 
ing cleared up at least for most people that think at all on 
these questions. This confusion, which even Kant himself 
did not wholly escape, arises from identifying self -evidence 
with innateness. People thought that to be self-evident, a 
truth must in some sense be innate. The appeal to innate- 
ness in the doctrine of "natural rights," and the attempts 
to found the validity of private property and the monog- 
amous family on inborn instincts and sentiments, are illus- 
trations. We have come to see, however, that innateness is 
a purely biological concept and has nothing to ffo ^ith *p\Lr 
evident" necessity whiclTTs a logical conr^p* 

ButThe historic-forms of intuitionism made an error at 
another point. They were mistaken, not so much in their 
insistence upon an immediate or intuitional element in 
morals, as in their conception of the locus of that element. 
It is clear now that it is highly improbable that we have an 
underived and immediate "sense" of the Tightness and 
wrongness of particular acts. It seems no less improbable 
that there are universal and necessary intuitions of the 
rightness and wrongness of types or classes of behavior. 
But it is not at all certain that there are no ideas of value, 
or principles of value, that are self-evident. Many moral 
philosophers believe that such exist and the present writer 
is in agreement with this view. We shall attempt presently 
to make clear the nature of this intuitive or a priori element 
in morality. But we shall be able to present it in its true 
light only after we have determined the element of truth in 
the empirical theory of conscience. To this we shall now 



Theories of conscience as a special faculty, innate in 
man, have gradually given place to empirical and historical 
conceptions. Conscience is no longer thought of as a special 
organ or faculty of knowledge, but rather as consciousness 
in so far as it is concerned with a special class of objects 
and judgments. The objects are conduct and character, the 
judgments value judgments. According to this view, our 
knowledge of what is right and wrong has come only through 
the experience of the individual and the race. Conscience 
itself is, therefore, the product of social evolution and of 
individual development. 

Prior to the application of evolutionary conceptions to 
morals, the empirical theory attempted to explain the origin 
of conscience, or our moral sentiments, merely as the result 
of associations in the life of the individual. The individual 
was born a tabula rasa, ready to take any impressions and 
ready to do anything. The most imperative feeling, for or 
against any type of action, was explainable, on this view, 
wholly as a result of the commands and impressions re- 
ceived in the individual life, the associated connections 
formed between our acts and resulting pleasure or pain. 

There were always those who felt that this account of 
conscience left much to be desired. It seemed hardly pos- 
sible that our obligations to, or repugnances against, certain 
acts, so deep-lying, could be accounted for in this superficial 
way to say nothing of the sense of obligation itself, so 
unique an experience as Kant had shown. It seemed possible 
to meet these objections by adding to the experience of the 
individual that of the race. Herbert Spencer and others 
suggested the hypothesis that conscience, or our elemental 
moral sentiments, while in some way innate in the individual, 
are acquired in the experience of the race. Evolutionary 


views of conscience have then, in the main, taken the place 
of the earlier empiricism. Our problem is to determine the 
bearing of these views on the question of moral knowledge 
and its validity. 

The origin of primitive morality can, we saw, best be ex- 
plained, perhaps, in terms of natural selection and adjust- 
ment to environment. The customs of primitive peoples 
and with such peoples morality is almost wholly custom- 
ary are folk-ways which bear all the marks of being ways 
of acting that further the survival of the species and adjust 
it to its environment. Natural selection can be plausibly 
credited with the earliest forms of conduct, as well as with 
the earliest stages of even our highest and most developed 
ethical sentiments. 1 

To this theory of the origin of primitive behavior cor- 
responds a similar theory of primitive conscience. Primitive 
man has his sense of obligation also, his feelings as to what 
is and is not done, but this sense or feeling is merely the 
inner side of custom. The tribesman's conscience is consti- 
tuted largely by the sentiments connected with ritual cus- 
toms and tabus, the reflection within the individual, so to 
speak, of the tribal mores. It is quite proper then to say that 
on this level there is no individual moral self. The social 
conscience precedes and the conscience of the individual is, 
in Clifford's terms, the Tribal Self. 

Now there is no reason to doubt the general truth of this 
theory of primitive conscience. We have repeatedly seen 
that both rights and duties are functional and, as such, 
relative to the development of society. It is also clear that 
conscience, which reflects in the individual these rights and 
duties, will be thus relative also. But it is a serious error 
to suppose that we can pass directly from the primitive con- 
science to the developed conscience of mankind. It is the 

1 Chapter V, pp. 100 ff. 


same fallacy of false analogy against which Huxley warned 
us. 1 As it is erroneous to argue from plants and animals to 
men, when basal differences make such an argument im- 
possible, so it is equally fallacious to argue from the primi- 
tive conscience of man to the developed conscience of today. 
They are two quite different things. 

When, therefore, we turn from the hypothetical conscience 
of the primitive man to the actual conscience of the man 
of today, there are indeed Similarities, but there are also 
important differences. The similarities are patent. The in- 
dividual of today, no more than the primitive man, is born 
into the world with innate moral ideas or sentiments. He, 
too, has but a limited collection of congenital instincts or 
drives, instincts both egoistic and altruistic, individual and 
social in their reference; and his moral sense is the product 
of the modification of these instinctive tendencies through 
social heredity and education. In this respect, his conscience, 
like that of the primitive, is a social product and a reflection 
of the social consciousness. 

These similarities are important and a recognition of 
them helps us to understand many anomalies of conscience. 
We find it possible to understand what would be otherwise 
unintelligible to us, namely how in the same person there 
may exist side by side the most exalted sentiments and the 
most primitive reactions, how more particularly it is pos- 
sible in moments of great stress, such as the passions of the 
late war, for individuals and whole peoples to revert, not 
only to primitive passions, but to primitive ideas of right 
and wrong. 

The similarities are important, but the differences are 
much more significant than the resemblances. In the first 
place, the individual of today is born into a moral society 
which has long since passed beyond the level of merely cus- 

Chaptcr V, p. in. 


tomary morality into a morality of reflection and ideas. 
The element of custom still remains, with its merely ex- 
ternal pressure and its often irrational conventions. But not 
only has custom passed in great part into codified law, but 
there has also been developed a large body of moral ideas 
and ideals created by the reflective work of centuries of 
human history. These moral ideals are embodied in concrete 
institutions and personalities and mold the conscience of 
the individual through the powerful forces of imitation and 

The differences in the moral order into which the indi- 
vidual of the present is born are in themselves sufficient to 
make his conscience a very different thing from that of the 
primitive man. But the chief difference, after all, is in the 
man of today himself. It is doubtless difficult to say with 
just what concretely the individual is born into the world. 
The entire question of heredity is so perplexing that no defi- 
nite judgments can be passed. Only a short time ago man 
was credited, as by William James, with a great abundance 
of "instincts," some of which we would call moral. Just now 
the tendency seems to be to deprive him of them all. But 
one thing we may say with certainty. The individual has 
at least a capacity for moral appreciation and reflection 
which marks him off definitely from his remote primitive 


Empirical and evolutionary theories of conscience have 
gradually displaced intuitionist theories in both of their 
older forms. We may say without hesitation that conscience, 
as defined at the beginning of this study, is a product of 
social evolution and of individual development. Our judg- 
ments of right and wrong, both on particular acts and classes 
of acts, reflect the experience of the race. 

But the truth of this proposition may imply, and has 


implied in many minds, consequences gravely erroneous. 
We may, in the first place, easily fall into that egregious 
fallacy, against which we have warned from the beginning, 
of supposing that because what we call the conscience of 
civilized mankind is shown to be derived, by a perhaps slow 
and imperceptible development, from original barbaric 
tabus, that this derived conscience has the same meaning 
and value as that from which it is derived a fallacy which 
underlies much of the moral scepticism connected with the 
empirical theory, and which we shall consider presently. 
Finally, we may easily suppose that because we have shown 
that conscience is empirically and historically derived, that 
fact excludes any intuitional or a priori element in morality. 
This does not necessarily follow. 


As a matter of fact, it may fairly be said that the con- 
sensus of opinion among moral philosophers today is in 
favor of an intuitive or a priori element in morality. In 
truth, one may speak of a general tendency to restore the 
a priori element in all knowledge again. After several 
decades of empiricism and pragmatism, logicians are again 
pointing out certain general aspects of thought that are 
a true, no matter what," i. e., forms of thought that are true 
no matter what the content of thought may be. The more 
philosophical student of ethics will want to pursue this im- 
portant problem further. Here we shall confine ourselves to 
stating briefly two points at which this intuitive or a priori 
aspect of morals is found. 

In the first place, it is generally conceded that the notions 
of good and bad themselves are intuitive. By this is meant 
that these notions cannot really be defined in terms of any- 
thing else. They are what the philosophers call "logically 
primitive" concepts. If, for instance, I argue that the good, 
or value, is that which is desired, I require as my premise 


the idea that satisfaction of desire is a good. If I say, as 
many people do, that one thing is better than another be- 
cause it is more highly developed, I must first assume that 
development is necessarily improvement, that is, that there 
is always greater value in a thing in proportion to the degree 
of its development; and to do this I must already know 
what good or value is. In other words, however I define 
value for the purposes of ethics, whether as a pleasurable 
state of consciousness or as development of the self, I must 
already assume the meaning of good as intuitively known. 

The foregoing is of itself of great importance. It means 
that the sense of duty is also unique and unanalyzable. The 
consciousness of obligation springs directly and immediately 
from the recognition or acknowledgment of value. The ob- 
jects with which the feeling of obligation is connected are 
historically conditioned, but the feeling is itself unique and 
underivable. This is what ordinary people mean when they 
say that, although men may differ as to what things are 
right or wrong, no one ever thinks that it is right to do 
wrong or wrong to do right. This is also the imperishable 
element in Kant's important distinction between the "form" 
and the "content" of morality. 

This point is so important that we may with advantage 
develop it somewhat further. In another connection we 
stated this situation in the following way. We said that the 
proposition that the good ought to be chosen rather than 
the bad, the higher rather than the lower good, is axiomatic. 
By this we meant that no reason could be given for it other 
than that the opposite cannot be given an intelligible mean- 
ing or, as the philosophers used to say, it cannot be con- 
ceived. The situation is similar here to that in other fields 
of human reason, "It is possible, for instance, to contem- 
plate a world in which men never die, but not one in which 
two and two do not make four. We feel that such a world, 
if there were one, would upset the whole fabric of knowl- 


edge and reduce us to utter doubt. " Similarly it is possible 
to conceive a world in which lying should be put above 
truth and death higher than life. But it is not possible that 
one value should be higher than another without it follow- 
ing that the higher ought to be rather than the lower. This 
principle of the choice of the greater value over the lower, 
and the obligation that flows from it, is, as Brentano said, 
the one immediately self-evident moral law, and therefore 
the natural and ultimate sanction of morality. 

This immediately self-evident law is, as we have said, 
true no matter what. One may admit the relative and con- 
tingent character of all our human values and yet there are 
principles of value that remain untouched. Such is the prin- 
ciple of higher and lower, or of scale in values. It is pos- 
sible for us to conceive an order of values quite different 
from ours, one in which, to use Nietzsche's terms, there is 
a complete "transvaluation of all our values/' but the prin- 
ciple of order or scale still remains. The Chinese order in 
rescuing the shipwrecked is, it is said, the exact opposite 
of ours. Whereas custom demands of us the rescue, first 
of the children, then of the women and finally of the men, 
another conception of value or importance calls for the re- 
verse order in the case of the Chinese; but the conception 
of a necessary order of values is present in both cases. We 
may even find it possible to think of a world in which 
there are no values, or in which values cease to be. But 
certainly not of a world in which, if there are any values 
at all, they are not thus related. 

In our own human experience there seems to be an 
order of value which we violate at our peril. Such an order 
has been worked out by mankind and we have attempted 
to formulate it in Chapter VIII. This order is the "right" 
or normal order for us, and if we turn it about we may quite 
properly speak of "a perversion of values." But there is 


nothing abstractly inconceivable about such a perverted 
scale. The actual order in which we put our human values 
is the result of human experience, individual and racial, 
and we go against that experience at our own peril. But 
the order is not self-evident. Only the idea of a necessary 
order itself is self-evident and therefore intuitive. 


The errors of the intuitionists arose chiefly from tying 
up the philosophical idea of intuition with the biological 
idea of innateness. The errors of empiricists lay in an en- 
tirely different direction, namely in tying up the value or 
validity of conscience with theories of its origin. These 
errors have been made on a grand scale by many of the 
"evolutionary" philosophers. The most flagrant case is that 
of Nietzsche in his evolutionary theory of conscience de- 
veloped in the Genealogy of Morals. In his study of "guilt" 
and "bad conscience" he attempts to account for them 
merely as survivals of formerly serviceable habits and 
tabus. His "own hypothesis concerning the origin of the 
bad conscience" he presents in the following way. 

He regards the bad conscience as the serious illness of 
man. "Just like the plight of the water-animals when they 
were compelled to become either land-animals or to perish, 
so was the plight of these half animals (men); perfectly 
adapted, as they were, to the savage life of war, prowling 
and adventure suddenly all their instincts were rendered 
worthless and 'switched off.' These water-animals had to 
walk on their feet 'carry themselves' whereas heretofore 
they had been carried by the water; a terrible heaviness 
oppressed them. . . ." Man's plight, according to Nietzsche, 
was of the same nature. When he was "imprisoned within 


the pale of society" his old instincts remained suppressed. 
"All instincts which do not find a vent without turn inwards 
that is what I mean by growing internalization of man, 
consequently we have the first growth in man, of what sub- 
sequently was called his soul/' A man with a soul or a con- 
science is, for Nietzsche, "a sick animal." 

Granting that Nietzsche was right in his theory of the 
origin of conscience which is in itself quite doubtful 
there is no question as to the point at which the fallacy 
in his argument is to be found. He ignores entirely the 
differences between the primitive man and the man of to- 
day, which makes the conscience of the latter an entirely 
different thing from that of the former. Man is not a sick 
animal who does not understand the arrests and inhibitions 
that have been exercised upon his instincts. He understands 
alike the meaning of those instincts and the reasons for 
their control, and precisely that understanding is his con- 

The judicious reader will see in this theory of Nietzsche 
the fountain-head of all the vulgar prattle of inhibitions 
and suppressed desires that has filled the air. It is of in- 
terest to observe that a large part of this talk has been a 
matter of fashion and that the fashion is changing. This 
change, everywhere observable, is due in part to the mere 
fact that people have simply got tired of Freudianism. But 
a still deeper reason for the change is to be found. Even 
the man in the street after a time becomes aware of fal- 
lacies in popular thought, even if he cannot give them a 
name. He is coming to realize that, since man has been for 
more than fifteen thousand years part of a highly organized 
social life, the morality and social conscience, developed 
by that life, has become part of the man himself and has 
created in him an "instinct" as strong as the instincts of 
sex or self-preservation themselves. It is not so much the 


man who suppresses his instincts that becomes the sick 
animal, as the man who tries to suppress his human virtues 
and to return to the animal level. Then it is that the true 
malaise arises. 1 


That there is an intuitive or a priori element somewhere 
in morality, we have now seen and we have also indicated 
where it is to be found. But in making the form of morality 
a priori and the content empirical, we have by no means 
closed the doors to scepticism, for it is precisely the con- 
tent of morality that is in question. It is the validity of 
the concrete norms of rights, duties and virtues that the 
sceptic denies. These norms are functional and relative to 
the development of society and its institutions, and rela- 
tivity spells for most men scepticism. Either these norms 
are unchanging and absolute, and thus have unquestioned 
authority, or they are changing and relative and have no 
authority at all. 

One ethical writer has put the problem in the form of 
the following question: "Do we not destroy conscience if 
we conceive it as a historical and relative reality?" His an- 
swer is, no that "if philosophers do not make ethics, neither 
do they unmake them." Now there is undoubtedly a cer- 
tain truth in this answer. Even if morals are merely a part 
of nature, in the sense of naturalistic evolution, they rep- 
resent a certain adaptation to environment which we can 
by thinking no more unmake than we can create. But while 
we can not destroy conscience by thinking of it in this way, 
we can certainly "denature" it take all the meaning out 
of it. No one familiar with the facts can doubt that this 

*A witty and supgcstive development of this point is to be found in an 
article by Andre Maurois. "Fragments from a History of the World, etc." 
Vanity Fair, February, 1930. 


denaturing of morality has been a wide-spread consequence 
of evolutionary ideas, and that it has expressed itself in 
an all-pervasive moral scepticism. 


Relativism and scepticism in morals have always been a 
constant feature of reflective morals. If I find that the 
feeling of the wrongness of going to the theater on Sunday 
which has seemed to me the voice of conscience dis- 
appears with what I call enlightenment, what more natural 
than that I should come to doubt all such voices? If a 
custom or tabu, at one time absolute in its demands, turns 
out to be irrational, what more natural than that I should 
ascribe all such conventions to irrational tabus? If to kill 
his adulterous wife satisfied the demands of the conscience 
of a primitive savage, how am I to know that my feeling, 
that I ought not to kill my wife, is any more authoritative 
than his? 

Scepticism in Greek ethics arose with the break-up of 
customary morality at the time of the Persian wars and was 
the direct result of the contrast in customs forced upon 
the Greeks by their wider knowledge. The Sophists who 
represented this sceptical movement, drew the inference 
that nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. Their 
sophistry for such thinkers as Socrates and Plato, who 
sought to reestablish the authority of morals on a firmer 
and more rational basis than that of custom lay precisely 
in the fact that, arguing from this historical relativity, they 
sought to deny all objective authority, to call that good 
which was hitherto called bad, to make "the worse appear 
the better reason. " 

The scepticism of the Renaissance, of which Montaigne 
is a supreme example, followed upon the breaking up of 
the authority of the Christian church. It is doubtless true 
that here again contrasts between the moral customs of 


the West and the East, resulting from the experiences of 
the Crusades and of the growing commerce between Occi- 
dent and orient, had their effect; but equally potent was 
the revival of pagan culture and the development of natural 
or scientific knowledge. Christian morals had been bound 
up with Christian dogma, and with the loosening of the 
latter came a weakening of the former. 

Modern scepticism is the same in essence as that of earlier 
periods, but it is characterized by a special turn given to 
it by supposed inferences drawn from Darwinism and the 
evolutionary view of things in general. It is true that the 
practical scepticism that has flooded the Western world 
in the last quarter century was greatly intensified, and in 
many cases caused, by the disillusionment following upon 
the World War, but it was in full flood before the war and 
had already showed itself to be a necessary character of 
the Darwinian epoch. In any case, whatever its various 
causes, it finds its expression always in terms of evolu- 
tionary thought. This modern scepticism is epitomized in 
the thinking of Anatole France and Nietzsche. 


Moral scepticism, whether of the Greek sophists or of 
a Nietzsche and an Anatole France of the present day, is 
always the same in substance, however it may differ in 
detail. Its thesis is always in essence this: that the historical 
relativity of moral codes shows them to have no more 
validity than that of useful conventions for social control, 
or as rough and artificial compromises between individual 
and social interests; and secondly, that the feeling of ob- 
ligation of the individual towards these codes is either an 
illusion, or at the most without any authoritative or bind- 
ing character. 

Now there is rather general agreement among ethical 
philosophers that this sceptical inference is unwarranted. 


The philosopher does not deny the facts upon which the 
inference is based, the facts of the historical relativity of 
moral codes. Neither does he deny the truth, within its 
limits, of the evolutionary and social account of the indi- 
vidual^ conscience. But he does deny that doubt of their 
validity necessarily follows, if the true nature of moral au- 
thority or validity is understood. 

As is so often the case, the false conclusion seems to 
arise from a false setting of the problem. The moral sceptic 
presents us with an alternative in which the two positions 
are not exclusive. The assumption underlying his argument 
seems to be that moral codes must be universal and neces- 
sary, in the sense attributed to mathematical and logical 
principles, or else lack all objective validity whatsoever. 
The necessity of this alternative most ethical thinkers would 
deny. For one thing, it rests upon an entire misconception 
of the nature and function of morality. In the second place, 
it involves an entirely false interpretation of the historical 
relativity of morals. Let us consider these two points sep- 

In the first place, then, morality is dynamic not static. 
Moral codes are made for life, not life for moral codes, 
and life is essentially dynamic in character. A moral code 
is always the formulation of an ideal of human welfare, 
and the code changes must indeed change as our con- 
ception of this ideal becomes more clear. New occasions do, 
as we saw in detail, teach new duties. In a very real sense, 
time also makes ancient good uncouth. There is, moreover, 
nothing contradictory in saying that, although it is uncouth 
now, it was none the less good then. 


The notion we have been developing may be described 
as the conception of a Progressive Standard. It is a notion 
which, in various forms, may be said to be a characteristic 


idea of modern ethics. It is important, first of all, to define 
what is meant by a progressive standard and to show how 
a standard may be a standard or norm, and yet changing 
and progressive. 

It is clear, of course, that there can be no real norm or 
standard where there is no element of permanence or con- 
tinuity. Life requires change, but if change goes too far 
the significance of life is lost. As the poet says, 

I changed myself to renew myself 
And lost myself. 

Change of self without continuity is really self-alienation, 
as abnormal psychology shows us. In like fashion, mere 
change is not progress. Progress implies creation but it also 
implies conservation or continuity. Real progress in moral- 
ity implies an abiding norm throughout change. On the 
other hand, no norm could be authoritative if it did not 
involve change in its applications. If the conditions of life 
change, then norms of living must change in the detail of 
application. If there is progress in man's insight into the 
meaning of his life, then there must be progress in his 
norms of living also. So much for the notion of a progressive 
standard. Let us now turn to an example. 

I shall take as an illustration one presented with admir- 
able clearness by Professor W. R. Sorley. 1 He starts with 
the fact of historical relativity, pointing out the great dif- 
ference in practice and opinion of the head-hunters of 
Borneo on the one hand, and of members of the Society 
of Friends on the other. The latter condemn the actions 
which are the daily and admired performances of the former. 
The head-hunter of Borneo approves with enthusiasm what 
the follower of George Fox condemns and abhors. The ques- 
tion is asked, whether it is possible to institute any fruitful 

1 W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, pp. 94 ff. 


comparison between ideas and habits so far apart? In the 
terms of our question, is it possible to find any continuity 
in practices and judgments seemingly so absolutely dif- 

At first sight apparently not; but on looking more deeply 
we find that, in a sense, the wild man of Borneo and the 
Quaker are, so to speak, moral brothers under their skins. 
If we kept our eyes on the particular judgment in each 
case we should, of course, have absolute contradiction. If, 
however, we look to the universal back of the particular, 
the story is different. The head-hunter judges the slaying 
of his enemy as good. He does not reflect upon the ground 
of his approval, but if he did he might find that what he 
approved in calling the act good, was his contribution to 
the union and power of a community which lived among 
enemies and must be vigilant and strong in order to survive. 
It is thus in virtue of the presence of a universal in the 
particular that the particular is approved. When now later 
a more civilized observer reflects upon the same incident, 
our member of the Society of Friends for instance, he 
looks from a different point of view and sees further. He is 
looking now from the standpoint of larger communities, 
from that of nations and even of humanity as a whole. 
Therefore the same situation which the tribesman calls 
good, he calls evil. The two judgments on the same concrete 
situation contradict one another. But this contradiction does 
not apply to the underlying grounds of the judgment, if 
these have been correctly analyzed. They are largely iden- 
tical and differ only in degree of comprehensiveness. 

This is our first important point the element of identity. 
The ground of the savages' judgment might be expressed 
in the proposition, "tribal welfare is good," and the good of 
his particular tribe might imply the hurt of another. The 
ground of the civilized man's judgment may be, "common 
welfare is good/' and he will not limit common welfare to 


the welfare of a particular tribe. Underlying the judgment 
of both is the idea of a community and of a common wel- 
fare, however differently conceived, and it is on this account 
that the predicate "good" is applicable. 

Thus do the hands of the wild man of Borneo and the 
Friend meet across centuries of change. But there is a second 
point of equal importance for our present purpose. These 
centuries represent development or progress. Between the 
wild man of Borneo, to whom no life is sacred except one 
of his own limited tribe, and the Friend to whom all lives 
are sacred, no matter what their race, stages of develop- 
ment may be interpolated. There is, particularly, the na- 
tionalistic ideal and norm, according to which all taking 
of human life is wrong except that sanctioned in war be- 
tween nations. It is a higher norm than that of the primitive, 
and still lower than that attained by the pacifist. The con- 
tinuity between these three lies in the notion, shared by 
all, that common welfare is good. The progress lies in the 
increasing comprehensiveness of the notion in the broad- 
ening of the idea of the community and enlarging of the 
area of the common good. 

Only a conception of the moral standard as thus progres- 
sive, is tenable on the basis of the teleological view of morals 
we have developed. If duties, rights, and virtues are func- 
tional, and get their significance from their instrumental 
relation to the developing moral end, then their very au- 
thority arises precisely from the degree to which they 
actually change to conform to our ever-enlarging insight 
into human ends and values. Thus, there can be no respect 
for specific forms of property unless these forms are them- 
selves worthy of respect. Property in human flesh was only 
recently an acknowledged form of possession. If respect 
for the institution of private property involved eternal re- 
spect for slavery, we should have a contradiction at the 
very heart of the moral life. It is sometimes felt that this 


idea of a progressive standard involves a contradiction, 
that the ideas of change and authority are incompatible. 
We have now seen that the actual situation is precisely the 
reverse. Such a contradiction arises only for a formalist 
morality. For any type of teleological ethics, authority is 
possible only when empirical standards change to conform 
to the growing insight into the moral ideal. 


The functional and relative character of moral codes is 
then the condition of their objectivity and authority. The 
inference from historical relativity to scepticism and sub- 
jectivity in morals is entirely unwarranted. Another in- 
ference, even more fallacious, and with even more serious 
consequences for moral life, is also constantly made 
namely that historical relativity implies relativity for the 
individual. It is expressed in extreme form in the famous 
dictum of Nietzsche: "Nothing is true, all is allowed." 

The comparative study of habits and customs has re- 
vealed the fact that both moral and social conventions have 
varied from age to age and from place to place. Immediately 
the unwary and untrained jump to the conclusion, that 
because there appear to be no eternal or universal standards 
of morals and manners, there is, therefore, no value in a 
local, temporary, and but slowly changing one a conclu- 
sion by no logical possibility to be drawn from the premises. 
The result of this particular, and for the moment very 
popular, non scquitur has been to cause in many persons 
a head-long jettisoning of their whole cargo of morals, 
manners and conventions, and the bringing about of a chaos 
which arouses mirth or terror according to the temperament 
of the social observer. 

This philosophy of license, this idea that nothing is good 
or bad, but our own thinking makes it so, invariably ap- 


pears in the first flush of realization of historical relativity 
and of the sense of freedom from external compulsion that 
comes with it. Yet it is based on such obvious fallacies 
that it persists only in the minds of the most unthinking. 
Even on the theory that moral standards are wholly chang- 
ing and functional, the slowly changing one may, for all 
practical purposes, be absolute for the individual who lives 
in the period of its functioning; it may be, in other words, 
what has been described as a "pragmatic absolute." 

The truth is that this entire sceptical inference and the 
license bound up with it, is based upon an entirely false 
conception of historical relativity, or rather upon a confu- 
sion of two kinds of relativity. Relativity to time or place 
in the universe is quite a different thing from relativity to 
the mind of an individual. It is, in other words, quite pos- 
sible that things may be different at different times or 
places, but the same for all those who occupy a given time 
or place. To argue from one kind of relativity to the other 
is fallacious. 

The point we are making may perhaps be made clearer 
by reference to the doctrine of relativity in modern physics. 
It is true that the position in space and time varies with, 
or is relative to, the place in the cosmos from which the 
object is observed. But this relativity to the observer has 
reference to the position of the observer not to the sub- 
jective characters of the individual observer himself. From 
the latter point of view there is no relativity. It is generally 
agreed that from the principle of physical relativity we 
are not justified in arguing to the subjectivism involved in 
the second sense of relativity. It is in principle no different 
with historical relativity. From the relativity of a code of 
conduct to the historical conditions we have as little right 
to infer relativity in the judgments of the individual. 

But the fallacy involved in this false conception of rela- 


tivity is more fundamental than this. It consists in ignor- 
ing the fact that progress and a progressive standard 
involve the retention or conservation of the moral insights 
and values already achieved. To revert to earlier and lower 
forms of conduct when we know the better, is a form of 
moral atavism. The truth is that no one can pass from 
this historical relativism to individual relativism, without 
sometime or other becoming conscious that he is "ration- 
alizing" his behavior in the bad sense of the word. What 
is called the confusion in present-day standards in morality 
is in part due to honest doubt, but to a still larger extent 
to an intellectual sloth which prevents us from getting rid 
of our confusions, or a spiritual perverseness which makes 
us enjoy the half-lights of our uncertainty. 


The purely "conventional" character of morality is, we 
have seen, the major premise upon which the moral sceptic 
bases his scepticism. He talks of conventional obligations, 
and still more of the conventional virtues, as though the 
mere calling them conventions, robs them of their authority. 

In a sense in the proper sense of the word morality is 
convention. It represents a coming together, an agreement 

a mutual acknowledgment on the part of the members 
of a society of certain standards of conduct and judgment 
as the indispensable conditions of the good life. But within 
this realm of convention it is customary and if we would 
think clearly, necessary to distinguish between the major 
and the minor conventions. Only the most unintelligent 
would fail to distinguish between the convention of dress- 
ing for dinner and the convention of living with one wife. 
The latter "convention," and others of a similar char- 
acter connected with the fundamental institutions of society, 
are major conventions because they are norms of basic 


forms of living. They are conventions because they are 
agreements, but they are also norms because they are ac- 
knowledged. There may be an existence of such norms 
like the famous ideas of Plato apart from the conscious- 
ness of man. Personally I believe this to be true. But the 
fact remains that they are first discovered in the life and 
intercourse of men. Like the "rights of man/' they have 
existence only as they are acknowledged by mankind. 
Morals and manners are closely connected, but the differ- 
ence between them, in both origin and authority, is obvious. 

Even the much scorned minor conventions have an effec- 
tive influence on conduct, remote or proximate. A story is 
told of an English gentleman who was sent out as a gov- 
ernor of an island where the entire population, save for his 
sole self, was black and savage. He dressed for his soli- 
tary dinner every night as carefully as though he were 
preparing to dine at the smartest residence in Park Lane. 
He did so not from habit but from a knowledge of human 
nature. "If," he said, "I should drop this convention of 
civilized society, I should find myself some day having 
dropped one or another of the more important conventions, 
social and moral, and lower myself to the level of the blacks 
whom I govern. Evening clothes are far more important 
here than they ever were in London." x 

To some this may seem to be an exaggeration, but few 
would be disposed to deny the truth of the principle in- 
volved. We may state it in this way. Life is a whole and 
the character realized in our living is a totality also. In- 
tegrity, integration of character, nlay be manifested in 
many ways. Strength of character may be shown by ad- 
herence to a major standard of society, but it may also be 
shown by adherence to minor conventions when these are 

lu The Mucker Pose," Harpers, Nov. 1928, 


symbols of a larger whole. Character is a harmony deter- 
mined in its quality by the fundamentals or the basal vir- 
tues, but it also contains many over-tones which, though 
trivial when taken by themselves, are irreplaceable as parts 
of a larger whole. 


The nature and authority of conscience is now reasonably 
clear. To the question do we not destroy conscience if we 
conceive it as a historical and relative reality? the an- 
swer was made, "if philosophers do not make ethics neither 
do they unmake them." In this statement we have recog- 
nized a profound truth. In one way or another, it is felt 
and acknowledged by us all, that you and I can not make or 
unmake morals for ourselves. Morals are made by some- 
thing that transcends the individual moral subjects or 

This feeling has been uniformly expressed in the past 
in the thought that moral laws are somehow laws of nature 
part of the nature of things, as it were. The classic ex- 
pression of this we found in the doctrine of "natural rights." 

The truth or falsity of this idea depends entirely on our 
interpretation of the concept of "laws of nature." Moral 
laws are certainly not laws of nature in the sense of physi- 
cal laws. They are norms, not descriptions, propositions 
that state what ought to be, not merely what is. And yet, 
as we found, they also state what is in a more profound and 
fundamental sense. If we extend the notion of nature to 
include the moral order as well, we may speak of moral laws 
as laws of nature also. The further development of this 
idea belongs, however, to a later chapter. 



F. D. Maurice, The Conscience. 

J. Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, Part II, Bk. I, 

Chap. I. 
*H. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, Bk. I, Chap. VIII, Bk. 

III, Chap. I. 

* F. Paulsen, A System of Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. V. 

* J. H. Dunham, Principles of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. I. 

S. Alexander, Moral Order and Progress, Bk. II, Chap. III. 

F. Brentano, Origin of Knowledge of Right and Wrong, trans, 
by C. Hague. 

J. M. Guyau, A Sketch of Morality Independent of Obliga- 
tion and Sanction, (trans.) 
J. Laird, A Study in Moral Theory. 

G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, Chap. VI. 


F. Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals. 

* W. Lippman, A Preface To Morals. 

* W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, Chaps. 

IV, VI. 




Moral philosophers almost invariably believe in freedom 
of the will in some sense. The reasons for this are obvious. 
TRe task oFTEe^philosopher is to think things through and 
he cannot do this without coming to the conclusion that 
for a man to be really moral he must also be in some sense 

The moral life is a continuous process of choice of 
choice of one value over another and of choice of acts as 
leading to the realization of the chosen value. The question 
immediately arises whether this choice is real or only ap- 
parent, whether the will is free or actually determined. When 
the philosopher thinks things out he cannot avoid the con- 
clusion that if the moral life is to have any meaning at all 
freedom of the will must be real. Unless the moral life 
withTts rights to be acknowledged, its duties to be per- 
formed, and its ideal of character to be realized is to be 
an entire illusion, the moral agent must be a free agent. 
The moral life "feels real/' as William James said, and he 
who feels its reality, cannot doubt the freedom which that 
reality implies. This situation was expressed by Kant in his 
statement that freedom of the will is a necessary postulate 
of morality. In its simplest form: I ought, therefore I can. 
If the "ought" is real, the "can" is also. 


The conception of freedom seems to imply first, nega- 
tively, the absence of external restraint; and secondly, posi- 



lively, the power inherent in the object called free of fol- 
lowing the laws of its own nature. As applied to the will of 
man, it is the conception that an act or decision arises froni 
the "self" and not from conditions in any way foreign to 
the self. We have freedom, then, wherever there is self^ 

A more exact interpretation of the notion of freedom, 
as used in ethics, will be necessary as our discussion pro- 
ceeds. Here we may simply note that freedom, or self-deter- 
mination, means at least this: the power or ability of an 
individual to modify his conduct and character in the direc- 
tion of an ideal. If he can so modify conduct and character, 
he is free to some extent and to some degree. If he can- 
not, he is determined. Freedom in this sense is presupposed 
by any theory of ethics. 


It is perhaps unnecessary to distinguish between freedom 
of the will and that liberty or political freedom which we 
found to be one of the fundamental goods of man, and 
that right to which many jurists seek to reduce the other 
rights. Yet some consideration of the relation of the two 
is desirable, if for no other reason than that it will enable 
us to see the significance of the postulate with which we 
are dealing. 

Liberty, or political freedom, is freedom from external 
restraint, freedom to seek happiness, to realize or express 
the self, however we may choose to describe the moral end. 
Such freedom, although perhaps not the highest good, is 
certainly one of the highest of political goods. But it is 
not always as clear as it should be that freedom in the 
political sense presupposes freedom in the moral sense. 
There is no real reason why I should feel any obligation 
to respect the right to freedom of my fellow man if he is 
not a free agent in the moral sense. If all his acts are de- 


termined, as in the case of a machine or perhaps a lower 
animal, there seems to be no good reason why he should 
not be treated as such, why he should not be used as means 
to ends, just as they are. On the other hand, freedom in 
the political sense cannot be separated in our thought from 
civic and political responsibility, and it seems rather ab- 
surd to hold a man responsible legally and politically if 
he is not responsible morally also; and moral responsibility 
cannot be thought without assuming moral freedom. 

We may say then, that acknowledgment of political free- 
dom as a good, implies, when thought out, the postulate 
of moral freedom as a fact. The "natural law of liberty' 7 
as it has been called, implies the moral law of freedom. 
This is but a special case of the general relation of law 
to morals, as already defined. Just as assent to law implies 
that legal justice is realizing ethical justice within its range, 
so also the acknowledgment of the natural law of liberty 
as binding, implies that it is the liberty of a self-determin- 
ing being. This we shall see later in the analysis of re- 
sponsibility. It is for this reason, undoubtedly, that the 
Occident holds fast so firmly to its belief in freedom of 
the will despite its equally firm belief in the reign of law 
in nature. Except in his more dreamy moods, the fatalism 
of the Orient is repugnant to the man of the West. In some 
dim way he realizes that political and moral freedom must 
hang together, or they will hang separately. 


It is quite common now-a-days to say that the task of 
ethical philosophy is not to prove the freedom of the will, 
but to interpret it. The reason for this is, as I have already 
suggested, that_most thinkers recognize in the consciousness 
of freedom a fact of immediate experience or intuition, or 
at least a postulate so closely connected with immediate 


intuition, that it has the same kind of evidence. The prob- 
lem of the philosopher is, then, not to prove it but to inter- 
pret its meaning. This interpretation involves the task (i) 
of showing just what kind and degree of freedom js pre- 
supposed by the moral life and (2) of showing that free- 
dom, as thus understood, is wholly compatible with the , 
truths of the descriptive sciences, such as psychology and 
biology, and ultimately the so-called physical sciences of. 
chemistry and physics. AVe shall consider these two ques- 
tions in the order stated. 

There seems little reason to doubt that this is the true 
setting of the problem, and our first task must be precisely 
this interpretation of freedom as presupposed by the moral 
life. It will be advisable, however, first to make clearer 
what is understood when it is said that freedom itself is 
a fact. 

"As for our freedom," writes Henry Osborn Taylor, "any 
doubt of it counters the resistless convictions of our nature ; 
which are also fundamental to the rest of our make-up and 
functioning. Against their certitude the most serried reason- 
ings will break." He goes on to say that, while these con- 
victions are ultimate, still reason may be marshalled on 
their side. 1 Let us first examine this conviction and then 
turn to the reasons that support it. 

When appeal is made to this consciousness or feeling of 
freedom as a "fact," it is frequently answered that, while 
this consciousness is a psychological fact, it is nevertheless 
really an illusion. The crooked stick seen in the water is 
actually seen as crooked its crookedness is a psychological 
fact; but when we know the physical laws of the refraction 
of light we see that it is an optical illusion. Similarly, we 
feel free in every act we perform almost in every breath 

1 Human Values and Verities, p. 10. 


we breathe. That feeling is itself a fact, but when we know 
the psychological or biological laws of our being, we see 
that it is an illusion a sort of "life illusion/ 7 as it were 
that springs out of the will to life, or the " forces of life 
welling up from beneath." Thus Fichte, in his famous Vo- 
cation of Man (which every student of ethics ought to 
read), indicates how a naturalistic determinism tries to ex- 
plain away the consciousness of freedom. 

Now it is doubtful whether the consciousness of freedom 
can be explained away in this fashion. In any case, it is a 
fact of experience which must be taken into account by the 
philosopher. But when the philosopher says that freedom 
is a fact, he means even more than this. He means, not 
only the intuition or conviction of freedom as a psy- 
chological fact, but also freedom as a character of in- 
dividuality as such. Thus H. W. Carr says, "in speaking 
of^ freedom as a character of individual activity I jam refer- 
ring to a fact and not propounding a theory. . . . The free- 
dom I am speaking of is simply the range of individual 
activity which obviously differs qualitatively and quanti- 
tatively throughout the whole hierarchy of living forms. Man 

has a range within which his activity is unrestricted and 
also there is a limitation of this freedom. " 1 Freedom, in 
this sense as increasing selectivity or modifiability in the 
higher ranges of living beings is a biological fact recog- 
nized increasingly in modern biological theory. 


Thejreality of freedom is implied in the consciousness 
of Jhe reality of the moral life, If I really ought, then most 
certainly I can. We may get a sense of fatality or deter- 
minism by the reading of some tragedy or naturalistic novel, 
or by preoccupation with the causes and effects of nature; 

1 Changing Backgrounds in Religion and Ethics, p. 184. 


but every time we step out into life the assumption of 
freedom again becomes a part of all our acts, and still more 
in our personal relations to other people. It is this latter 
aspect that we shall consider first in our interpretation. 

We are always saying to ourselves, "you ought to do 
that, you ought not to do this." But we are always saying 
it also to our fellow men. Nor indeed can we avoid saying 
it. However fatalistic a man's view of life is, he cannot, 
if he is a true father, avoid saying it to his son, and if he 
is a true friend, saying it also at times to his friend. The 
father holds that his son is capable of becoming a respon- 
sible agent, and one of his chief desires and duties is to 
make him such. 

All judgments upon the conduct and character of our 
fellow men presuppose that they are free moral agents, 
and may be held responsible or accountable for their ac- 
tions. It is this notion of responsibility that is the first key 
to the interpretation of this meaning of ethical freedom. 

It is true that some thinkers have scouted this emphasis 
on responsibility. Thus William James in his Pragmatism, 
says: "To hear some persons, one would suppose that all 
ethics aims at is a code of merits and demerits. Thus does 
the old legal and theological leaven, the interest in crime 
and sin, abide with us. 'Who's to blame? whom can we 
punish? whom will God punish?' these preoccupations hang 
like a bad dream over man's religious history. . . ." He 
continues, "I ask you whether any man, woman or child, 
with a sense for realities, ought not to be ashamed to plead 
(for free will) such principles as either dignity or imputa- 

bility, . . . The real ground for supposing free-will is in- 
deed pragamatic, but it has nothing to do with this con- 
temptible right to punish which has made such a noise in 
past discussions of the subject." * 

1 Pragmatism , p. 116. 


Now we may perhaps agree that the right to punish has 
made too much noise in past discussions of the subject, 
but that it has nothing to do with the question of free-will 
we must certainly deny. It is doubtful whether James really 
senses the problem of responsibility and accountability. 
With all his genius and insight, James had certain blind 
spots, and the entire field of social and legal thinking was 
one of them. The brutal truth is that we mustjgraise and 
blame^our fellow men^ to say nothing of ourselves. We 
must, alas, punish them at times also. We do not want to 
be stupid enough to do these necessary things if there really 
is no responsibility or accountability. 

It is probable that men have always held their fellows 
accountable for their actions in some sense. But in primi- 
tive societies this feeling of accountability is scarcely dis- 
tinguishable from the feeling of resentment and revenge out 
of which the "wild justice" grows. This "natural accounta- 
bility," as it has been called, is probably little more than 
holding an individual responsible for any act of which he 
is believed to be the cause. No clear line is drawn between 
inanimate things or animals and men, or between the in- 
dividual and the tribe or family of which he is a member. 
When_a__sayage_ chastises the_inanimate.._ object that has 
failed him, or when his wild sense of justice can be ap- 
peased only by killing the entire family of the offender, it 
can hardly be said that such notions of accountability 
imply any clear idea of the freedom of the will. It is tempt- 
ing then, to go farther and to say that, since this primitive 
and natural accountability does not imply free-will, neither 
do the legal and moral notions that have grown out of 
them. Accountability is ? so to speak, merely a practical 
or utilitarian notion developed for purposes of social con- 
trol. This is the view of William James already referred to. 

It is, however, easy to show the impossibility of such a 
view; it leads to consequences of the greatest absurdity. 


Merely "natural accountability " of this sort is wholly ridic- 
ulous in a developed man. If a man kicks at a piece of 
furniture and swears at it as though it were self-determined, 
we laugh at him. We find it equally absurd to call the dog 
or the tiger bad because they bite or eat us; and the spec- 
tacle of bringing a dog into a court of justice fills us with 
the laughter of the gods. To say, then, that the accounta- 
bility that we insist upon in our law courts and in our 
daily moral intercourse is nothing but this casual connec- 
tion, is to make us all idiots or children. 

In short, this whole view we have been considering is 
but a peculiarly vicious instance of the fallacy of supposing 
that that which is historically derived is nothing more than 
the thing out of which it has been derived. Moral respon- 
sibility may have developed out of "natural accountability/ 7 

but to treat men on the basis of that primitive assumption 

now, is either the height of tyranny or the depths of stu- 

This situation is recognized to a degree by some thinkers. 
They see clearly that if law is to be anything but an ab- 
surdity or a tyranny, it must postulate or presuppose free- 
dom. But they still feel that we really are not free, so they 
describe this postulate as a fiction, but a "necessary fiction" 
required by law just as certain necessary fictions are re- 
quired and used in the mathematical and physical sciences. 
This point of view is developed at some length by Vaihinger 
in his well-known book, The Philosophy of As-If. It re- 
quires, however, very little thought to see that Vaihinger, 
and others of like ways of thinking, are the victims of a 
false analogy. The postulates of morals are, as Kant long 
ago pointed out, on an entirely different footing than the 
hypotheses or theories of science. In the practical reason 
a postulate requires belief. It is of the very nature of action 
that it stultifies itself if it acts on that which it knows to 
be wholly a fiction. Fictitious elements there may be, ancj 


doubtless are, in many of our postulates and ideals; but 
as Plato said, "something of the kind" must be true. Vai- 
hinger has tried to use Kant to give authority to his doctrine 
of moral and legal fictions, but the entire drift of Kant's 
thought is in the opposite direction. In any case, the notion 
of freedom as a "necessary fiction" is an untenable coiu 


We may say, then, that responsibility, both legal and 
moral, implies the freedom of the will in some sense. If 
responsibility is real, freedom is real. If the consciousness 
of freedom is an illusion, responsibility, and the imputation 
of praise and blame, constitute an impudence. If freedom 
is a "legal fiction," then accountability and punishment 
are fictions and ultimately a form of tyranny. 
-_ Responsibility implies freedom in some sense. We have 
yet to determine that sense, or, in other words, to inter- 
pret that moral freedom which we have now seen to be a 
fact.t-The sense in which freedom is implied is first of all 
that of self-determination, or the ability to the individual 
to modify his conduct or character in the direction of moral 
norms, and ultimately in the direction of the moral ideal 
which they presuppose. But curiously enough and this is 
a point to which we must give the closest attention these 
same judgments of responsibility and accountability also 
presuppose a certain kind of causality or determinism. This 
fact, and the contradiction it seems to imply, has confused 
many minds and led many to sacrifice freedom to deter- 
minism. An illustration will serve to bring out the point I 
have in mind. 

A bank official, let us say, is given more and more re- 
sponsibility, is trusted more and more by his employers. 
They assume and believe that he has such a character that 
he may be trusted to do the right thing and to refrain from 


doing the wrong in the face of the " temptations" of im- 
pulse, desire, or even of great need. They assume, in short, 
that character. determines conduct and that when character 
is formed, one can count on it in a certain sense and to a 
certain degree, predict what the man will do. You cannot 
really hold a man responsible unless you can also count 
on the effectiveness of his character in determining his 
actions. It would be absurd to hold any one responsible 
who, no matter what habits he had formed, was in exactly 
the same state of indeterminism in which he was before his 
character was formed. It is this that is meant when it is 
said (and rightly) that pure indeterminism is at variance 
with moral practice and judgment. 

This point is of great importance, for it is sometimes 
thought that for the will to be free at all it must be free 
from determination of any kind that it must be like a pair 
of balances that can, at any moment, be tipped one way 
as easily as another. Such "freedom" to do anything 
would not be freedom at all but the worst kind of bondage 
what Matthew Arnold called "bondage to the passing 
moment." Surely a freedom that consisted in such a state 
which involved the fact that, after all our years of effort 
to form character, we could just as easily do wrong as 
right as in the beginning is not one that we should want, 
as ethical beings, either for ourselves or our fellows. Free- 
dom of this kind, indeterminism, passes over into its op- 
posite, determinism, as Hegel said. 

It is clear from this analysis, that the freedom demanded 
by ethics does not exclude every kind of determinism, but 
only that form that is mechanical and external to the self. 
True freedom implies ^determination, of conduct by char- 

There are in general three main views as to what con- 
stitutes free volition or the freedom required by ethics: 
(.a) that volition is free when, and in so far as, it is due to 


the character and motives of the individual because it is 
his action, as distinguished from actions due to the appli- 
cation of external force, or the physiological reflex; v (b) 
that free volition is in some way and to some extent in- 
dependent of motives being due to a self not entirely && 
counted for by character, motives and circumstances; (c) 
that free action means action in accordance with reason, 
reason being thus regarded as man's true self. Of these three 
conceptions, the second may be excluded. Conduct inde- 
pendent of all motives whatever, would make freedom in 
the sense of self-determination impossible. The first is true 
in that it recognizes that freedom does not exclude all de- 
termination. The third is, however, the most adequate con- 
ception. Free action is, in the last analysis, action in 
accordance with reason. When we understand the meaning 
and the reason of conduct, and when that reason becomes 
our conscious motive and the very determinant of character, 
then all conduct springing from that character is ethically 


Responsibility, as understood both by common sense and 
the legal consciousness, does not, we have seen, imply free- 
dom in the sense of indeterminism\ It is precisely such a 

conception of freedom which makes real responsibility im- 
possible. It is also clear that such responsibility does not 
imply that freedom is absolute in the sense that we are 
either absolutely free or absolutely determined. There is 
such a thing as degrees or levels of freedom. 

The concept of degrees of responsibility is a part of prac- 
tical common sense and of legal theory. This is seen in the 
theory of the degrees of murder. A distinction is made in 
law between murder in the first and second degree, the first 
degree being confined to deliberate or premeditated murder. 
In addition there are the distinctions between murder and 


man-slaughter. Underlying this differentiation of degrees is 
the assumption of degrees of responsibility, and ultimately 
of degrees of freedom. An individual who takes a life in a 
state of madness, or even of drunkenness, is determined by 
impulses external to the self. He who murders in a fit of 
rage is more conscious of the meaning of his act, but his 
power of self-determination is still limited by external im- 
pulse. The man who murders in cold blood is fully conscious 
of the meaning of his act, has identified himself completely 
with the act, and it is, as we say, deliberate. Freedom means 
simply the ability to have conscious motives, to understand 
the meaning of our actions, and to have the power to modify 
them in the direction of some end or ideal. Both responsi- 
bility and freedom must, by their very nature, have degrees. 
This is merely common sense, and the law, which in the 
main embodies this common sense, reflects the same gen- 
eral situation. The fact that in practice it is often very diffi- 
cult to distinguish these degrees that the methods of so 
distinguishing them, as developed by law, are often very 
crude, and should be increasingly supplemented by the more 
refined methods of the psychologist does not in the least 
affect the main issue. Notjonly^ is freedom itself a fact in 
th two senses previously described, but the existence oT 
degrees of freedom is a fact also. 

The concept of degrees of free3om is important for prac- 
tical moral judgment, but it is no less important for ethical 
theory. A large part of the misunderstanding in this field 
is due to the neglect of this fact. The situation here is not 
unlike that described in the preceding chapter. It is assumed 
that a moral standard must be either universal and neces- 
sary, or it has no authority. We found that such a standard 
could be both changing and authoritative. In like manner 
it is frequently assumed that the will must be absolutely^ 
free or it cannot be free at alTTThese is in reality no basis 
for this assumption. If freedom is self-determination, in the 


sense of our definition, it varies with the degree of the de- 
velopment of the self and of the character and motives 
which make up the self. Freedom, in the moral sense, is not 
something innate, but something acquired. We are born 
with the potentiality of freedom, but what we shall make of 
that potentiality is a wholly different matter. 


The task of philosophy in general is to think things 
through; the task of moral philosophy is to think out the 
implications of moral life and judgment. One aspect of this 
task we have fulfilled in our interpretation of moral free- 
dom in determining why freedom is implied by the moral 
life and the nature of the freedom thus implied. From this 
point of view we have come to the conclusion that, while the 
reality of the moral life demands freedom, it is a kind of 
freedom that is not inconsistent with the achievement of 
character and the self-determination that springs from 

The problem of the moral philosopher is, however, much 
more far-reaching than this. If we were to confine our 
attention to moral reflection alone there would be no ques- 
tion of the freedom of the will. The "practical reason" of 
man, as Kant saw clearly, says that he jnust be free. But 
there is also the theoretical reason; and when reason acts 
in this theoretical capacity, as in the descriptive and ex- 
planatory sciences, it seems to demand that we think of 
human actions as determined precisely as any other form 
of happening. However much freedom of the will may seem 
to be a fact of our immediate consciousness, however much 
it may seem to be implied in all our moral judgments is 
this after all the way to go at the problem? Is not freedom a 
notion fundamentally at variance with all the facts of 
nature as revealed by science, and in contradiction with the 
basal concepts of science? 


It is, accordingly, natural to think that the problem of 
te freedom of the will is not a problem of philosophy as 
stinct from science, but essentially one for science to de- 
rmine, more particularly the science of psychology, 
sychology is traditionally the science which deals with the 
orkings of the human mind, and the will is one of the 
asses in which these phenomena or activities of the mind 
we been divided. Our problem would seem then to be 
mply this whether what we know of the workings of the 
iman mind allows us to conceive of the possibility of self- 
jtermination as we have defined it, of modifiability, on the 
irt of the individual, of his conduct and character in the 
rection of the moral ideal. 

It is natural to think thus, but for that reason none the 
ss fallacious. As William James, psychologist as well as 
lilosopher, has said: "the fact is that the question of free 
ill is insoluble on strictly psychological grounds." Psy- 
lology, he maintains, leaves the question open, and its 
iswer is possible only by the method of philosophy which 
,kes into account a very much wider range of considera- 
3ns, including the ethical and practical. If we are to think 
iings through it is important to see why this is so. 
The first of these reasons has to do with the "matter of 
ct" of psychology. We have already seen that, if we were 

appeal to psychological fact in the sense of the imme- 
ate deliverance of consciousness, there would be no ques- 
jn. We feel ourselves free, and against this feeling the 
ost serried reasons break in vain. One fact is worth a ton 

theory. But this is not what is meant by psychological 
ct here. This feeling of freedom may be an illusion which 
her facts will dispel. The psychologist often claims that 
; has other facts which show this feeling to be the illusion 
is. This is, however, what James denies. 


For the psychologist the problem is presented in this 
way. We make a certain "choice." We think that our choice 
could have been other than it was. Can the psychologist 
show that it could not have been other than it was? James 
says that he cannot. Let us see why this is so. 

Choice expresses itself for the psychologist in terms of 
attention or, otherwise expressed, choice is the direct effect 
of attention. Now psychology can indeed lay down the gen- 
eral principle that action follows upon idea and the atten- 
tion given to the idea. It can, perhaps, determine, in its own 
way and for its own purposes, the amount of effort or atten- 
tion given. But it can never say, on the basis of any factual 
knowledge, whether I might have given more. As James 
says, "After a certain amount of attention has been given 
to an idea, it is manifestly impossible to tell whether either 
more or less of it might have been given or not." * 

This same position has been expressed by the philosopher 
Bergson in another way. Psychology does, and perhaps may, 
lay down the general principle that choice is determined by 
the strongest motive. But no meaning can be given to this 
expression except that it is the motive that appeals most to 
the self. In other words, we argue in a circle. The self is 
determined by the strongest motive, but the strongest 
motive is that which appeals to the self. 

It may be said without danger of serious dispute that 
there is no possibility of psychology disproving the free- 
dom of the will in the sense demanded by moral practice 
and moral judgment. There is nothing in what we know of 
the facts or of the workings of the human mind, as seen 
either in human behavior or in introspection, that precludes 
it. In reality, the motives that lead many psychologists to 
deny freedom of the will do not arise out of an impartial 
survey of the facts of human experience themselves but, as 

1 William James, Psychology: Briefer Course, pp. 456, 457. 


James suggests, from an entirely different source. "The 
psychologist wants to build a science, and a science is a 
system of fixed relations. Wherever there are independent 
variables, there science stops. So far then as our volitions 
may be independent variables, a scientific psychology must 
ignore that fact and treat of them only so far as they are 
fixed functions. In other words, she must deal with the 
general laws of volition exclusively; with the impulsive and 
inhibitory character of ideas; with the nature of their ap- 
peals to the attention; with the conditions under which 
effort may arise, etc.; but not with the precise amounts of 
effort, for these, if our wills be free, are impossible to com- 
pute. She thus abstracts from free will without necessarily 
denying its existence. " 


Many psychologists would admit both of these conten- 
tions of James and yet insist upon the principle of deter- 
minism. They argue somewhat after this fashion. It may be 
true that psychology is not in a position to tell us whether 
a man could or could not have done other than he did. It 
may be true, and doubtless is, that we cannot predict a 
man's future choices and acts as we can predict in other 
spheres of science. But this is due to the undeveloped state 
of psychology. Psychology is, however, but a part of natural 
science, and natural science, taken as a whole, is sure that 
everything that happens is determined. If we extend our 
thought from psychology to biology, and from biology to 
chemistry and physics, we have a cumulative body of evi- 
dence which scarcely allows us to doubt that everything in 
this world is determined. Their views are expressed more 
concretely in this way. It is true that it is absurd to pretend 
that we can actually predict a man's choice. But if we knew 
completely the past, all the influences of heredity and en- 
vironment, then there is no question that we could predict 


human behavior with the same certainty that we can pre- 
dict the behavior of inanimate things. 

To such statements as these one is tempted to say, with 
Gilbert Chesterton, that "living in the future is a soft job." 
One can always take flight from fundamental difficulties by 
saying that if we had the knowledge, we could. "If wishes 
were horses, beggars might ride." In truth it is just such 
''wishful thinking" that is everywhere in evidence in all 
such arguments. Our actual knowledge of the influence 
both of heredity and of environment is really very small. 
With regard to heredity we do not actually know what is 
really inherited even in mice and dogs, to say nothing of 
men. We do not yet know whether any acquired characters 
are inherited or not, and our answer to this question vitally 
affects our notion of determinism by environment. Just as 
little do we actually know how much environment affects 
the behavior and sentiments of men during their own life- 
time. We have actual knowledge regarding modification of 
simple reflexes and impulses, but all the rest is pure specula- 
tion. To say that we know that men's behavior is completely 
determined by heredity and environment, is by that very 
statement to make manifest the fact that we really do not 
understand what scientific knowledge is. 

The actual factual basis for this conception of possible 
prediction of an individual's behavior is, then, so slight and 
so ambiguous as to make all such claims ridiculous. But 
the entire notion of such prediction contains a fallacy so 
glaring that it needs only to be pointed out to be obvious 

to everyone of any logical acumen. Prediction is actually 
possible only where the incalculable element, the margin 
of error, is very limited and easily controllable in other 
words, only in very simple mechanical systems. For very 
definite and easily describable reasons, such prediction is 
ruled out in human conduct both individual and social. 
The factor that enters in here is our human conscious- 


ness of facts and their meaning. The very discovery, on our 
part, of heredity and environment alters their character. In 
the individual life this appears in the following way. I be- 
come aware, let us say, of an inherited tendency to alco- 
holism, if there is any such thing. With this very awareness, 
this fact of heredity is altered for my will. I can accept 
it, allow for it, and modify my actions accordingly; or I can 
accept it as unmodifiable and yield myself to my impulses. 
In either case, the element of conscious selection that enters 
in makes all prediction impossible in the individual case. 
The same situation is present in the case of the factor of 
environment. Environment for man is not something static 
and unalterable. The moment it enters into his conscious- 
ness as a factor, it is already modified and still further modi- 
fiable to an unpredictable degree. 

Prediction of human conduct in its larger social aspect 
suffers from the same inherent difficulties. One of the most 
famous of such predictions is that connected with the name 
of Karl Marx. The "margin of error" in his calculations is 
now generally recognized. It was due to the fact that he 
based all his predictions on the assumption that the class 
war would retain its character. What he did not see was 
that by his very discovery of it, and his bringing of it to the 
consciousness of men, he altered its character. Men imme- 
diately began to alter it or to avoid it. Almost against his 
will, by his very preaching of the class war, Marx has helped 
to mitigate the war spirit. 

The whole situation constitutes an illuminating example 
of the difficulty of making a "natural science of man." The 
difficulty of reducing the facts of man's social behavior to 
natural laws, as we might reduce the behavior of animals, is 
simply that the natural law which governs men has a trick 
of ceasing to be a law whenever it is proclaimed. In the 
instance cited, whenever the two classes learn what the law 
of their action is supposed to be, they see it to be both futile 


and discreditable, begin to remember their humanity, and 
refuse to "obey" it. 1 

To say that while we cannot actually predict a man's 
choice, we could do so if we knew all his past all the in- 
fluences of heredity and environment is then, not only a 
claim that can never be brought to any actual test, but one 
which involves an obvious fallacy. But the fundamental 
difficulty in this position is something that goes very muck 
deeper. It involves pointing out that people who argue in 
this fashion are making a wholly illegitimate appeal to 
"science," that the conception of science and of scientific 
law to which they make their appeal, is quite out of accord 

with the actual situation in scientific thought today and, 
finally, that the more "philosophical" scientists would them- 
selves be the first to dissociate themselves from this dogma- 
tism. Let us see, then, what is the actual situation in the 
more fundamental sciences today. 

When people argue that the human will must be deter- 
mined by heredity and environment, because "science" tells 
us that everything that happens is necessarily determined, 
the science that is appealed to is the model sciences of 
physics and mechanics, to which it is supposed all other 
sciences can be reduced. Here, it is held, strict causality 
and strict determinism have been established, and this sets 
the ideal or model for all other science. 

Now the simple fact is that the exact opposite is the case. 
It is precisely in these more fundamental sciences that 
strict causality is challenged. There are large fields of phys- 
ical investigation in which it can be said, not merely that 
the necessary causal relations have not yet been worked out, 
but rather that the very nature of the facts is such that 

1 See in this connection J. W. Scott, Syndicalism and Philosophical 
Realism, p. 34. 


apparently they cannot be determined. The very idea of 
determinism ceases to have meaning. Even in physics causal 
necessity is a notion which holds only for certain gross and 
surface phenomena, and cannot be said to hold even for the 
physical universe in its deeper aspects. There are large fields 
of physical investigation in which it cannot merely be said 
that relations of cause and effect have not yet been worked 
out, but rather that the very nature of the facts themselves 
is such that these conceptions no longer have meaning. Even 
more important is the recognition of the fact that in these 
realms what we call laws are statistical laws. Even the 
ordinary man recognizes that when we say that so many 
men of a certain age die every year, there is nothing in that 
law to compel any one man to die; or if there tends to be a 
constancy in suicides, no one of the suicides was forced to 
take his life. It is now recognized and this is the important 

point that laws in general are just such descriptions, and 
that the old idea of compulsion, associated so long in our 
minds with law, is really out of place in physical science 
itself. Self-critical science has long recognized this truth. 

What is the meaning of all this? Certainly not that free- 
dom of the will is proved by physical science. Nor yet that 
physical science disproves determinism. It simply means 
that Science, with a capital S, cannot be appealed to as 
authority in arguing against the freedom of the human will. 


William James said and rightly that the problem of 
the freedom of the will cannot be solved by science, but be- 
longs essentially to philosophy, and we find that those 
thinkers who represent the advance guard of present-day 
physical science increasingly justify this position. 

What then has philosophy in general to say on this ques- 
tion? In general, it may be said that the philosophers have 
all along been saying, in their own way and from their own 


standpoint, the same things that the modern physicist is 
saying. More particularly, since Kant it has been thoroughly 
understood, that it is entirely possible to accept determinism 
*as a postulate of science and at the same time acknowledge 
and recognize a world of moral meanings and values to 
which the entire conception of natural law is irrelevant. 
Let us now see how they have come to this position. 

At the beginning of this chapter it was pointed out that 
moral philosophers almost invariably believe in the free- 
dom of will in some sense a fact for which, as we say, 
there are obvious reasons. Philosophy in general follows 
this lead, for the reason that a philosopher can scarcely be 
a philosopher without being a moral philosopher also or 
at least taking into account the facts and postulates of 
morality. They are part of the world that he seeks to under- 

Philosophers generally agree, then, on what may be de- 
scribed as the negative aspect of the question. They agree 
that the question of the freedom of the will is not a prob- 
lem for science. They agree on this point because they all 
share a common belief in the limitations of science, however 
differently they may express that belief. Some, like James 
and Bergson, hold that "science" conies to the facts of im- 
mediate experience with certain assumptions and postulates, 

namely that everything is determined, and consequently 
takes into account only such facts as fit into its determin- 
istic net. In other words, the dice are already loaded. Berg- 
son carries the argument further, in that he seeks to show 
that science is, by its very nature, analytic. It breaks up 
reality, including life and mind, into parts and then finds 
itself unable to put the parts together again except by con- 
necting them causally in a web of determinism. Psychology, 
following this lead of scientific method, breaks up the 
totality of consciousness or mind into sensations and ideas, 
into acts of will and motives for those acts. In his own 


technical terms, it "spatializes time," thinks of the con- 
tinuous flow of consciousness as though it were spread out 
in space, like the brain, and then thinks of each moment of 
consciousness as determined by the preceding. Here again 
the dice are loaded. For if we thus artificially divide mind 
and consciousness into parts, we can think of these parts in 
no other way except as causally determined. 

This is one way of stating the negative aspect of the 
question. Other philosophers, especially the modern idealists 
following Kant, put the same position in another way. 
Science, according to these thinkers, deals only with 
phenomena, that is with things only as they appear to us 
humans, with certain sense organs and with certain forms 
of thought. Of chief importance among these forms is the 
idea of necessary causation. We cannot know facts or 
phenomena without putting them into relations which are 
necessary and universal, and the causal relation is the prin- 
cipal one with which science is concerned. Nature, for 
science, must be a determined system, otherwise there is no 
science. Here too, the dice are loaded. If then we look at man 
as merely a part of nature at his body as connected with 
other bodies in the universe, his organic life as part of the 
continuity of organic life as we study it in evolutionary 

biology, his mind as connected with other minds both ani- 
mal and human, as studied in comparative and social psy- 
chology if we do this, then the only way we can under- 
stand these relations, is by working out these necessary 
connections, by assuming, in other words, determinism. On 
the other hand, it must not be forgotten that it is man, or 
the thinking self, that establishes these relations. To do 
this, to know in the sense required by science, the knower 
must in a sense transcend what he knows. A being who was 
merely a link in the chain of "nature-causality" could not 
even know that he was a link ; still less could he look before 
and after, project his mind into the past and contemplate 


the possibilities pf the future. Knowledge, no less than 
morals, postulates a free and transcendent self. This view 
is still very influential and is held by many scientists, in- 
cluding psychologists, of whom Munsterberg was an out- 
standing example. 


On this negative aspect of the question, it may then be 
said, philosophers are generally agreed. Their different 
ways of stating their belief are due, not to any differences 
of view as to the limitations of scientific knowledge and 
scientific method, but rather to differences in their concep- 
tions of the positive character of knowledge into which we 
cannot go here. On the positive aspect of the question of 
freedom, philosophers are also in the main agreed. Their 
position may be stated in the following general form. Man 
is free because he is part of a world or nature, the ultimate 
character of which is not determinism but freedom. This 
general position may again be stated in different ways. 

The more realistically inclined are likely to approach the 
problem from the standpoint of evolution. Man is the latest 
product of an evolutionary process. That process has often 
been conceived of as a completely determined process in 
which all that has appeared on the later levels was pre- 
determined by the lower levels. Cosmic evolution from 
star dust to selves and societies is simply the result of 
combination and recombination of simple elements, how- 
ever those elements may be conceived. The higher levels 
may then be reduced to the lower because the former are 
determined by the latter. But this is not the way the evolu- 
tionary process is conceived today. Whether it be thought 
of as a free creative process, as in "Creative Evolution," or 
as a process in which novelties appear, as in "Emergent 
Evolution," in either case freedom, not determinism, is the 
ultimate character of reality. Man then simply manifests in 


a higher degree that freedom or selectivity which, in dif- 
ferent forms, is the character of the entire process. 

Idealistic philosophers likewise consider freedom rather 
than determinism the fundamental character of reality as 
it ultimately is. They reach their position, however, in a 
somewhat different fashion. Having pointed out, as we have 
seen, that man must be more than a link in the chain of 
natural causation if he is to really know nature itself that 
he must, in short, transcend nature in order really to know 
it they go on to insist that this "transcendental self is 
free. In Kant's terms, man is empirically determined but 
transcendentally free. This has seemed to many to be a con- 
tradiction, but what it means is simply that if man looks 
upon himself merely as part of nature, he must, by the very 
conditions of the case, think of himself as determined. But 
that is only as he appears. What he really is is a free self- 
determining being who can set himself goals and pursue 
them, one of the most important of which goals is knowl- 
edge itself. Knowledge in any meaningful sense of the word 
is free activity. But now what does this signify for our 
view of reality as it ultimately is? Idealists argue in gen- 
eral, that man with his free activity, his pursuit of values, 
including the values of knowledge, is a truer key to the 
ultimate nature of the universe than those parts of the 
cosmos that appear mechanical and determined. Like the 
more realistically minded, the idealists think that man is 
in his essence free because he is part of a nature which is 
itself, in its inmost character, spiritual rather than material 
and mechanical. 


No one, of course, can really go far into all these ques- 
tions without studying carefully the philosophers and the 
philosophies of which we have here spoken. That is, how- 
ever, a task far beyond our present purpose and belongs to 


more advanced courses in philosophy. The important point 
here is, that philosophers in the main agree that what are 
called natural laws are descriptions based upon abstractions 
from the actual concrete reality that makes up our life and 
experience. It is all right to make these abstractions, but, as 
Hegel said, we must not forget that we have made them. 
With this position most thoughtful scientists would now 

Instead of pursuing further this line of thought, I will 
present here a philosophical argument against determinism, 
the point of which the most unphilosophical mind can easily 
see. It has been described as the logical refutation of de- 
terminism, and presents a line of thought which most philos- 
ophers would consider cogent. It will serve also to bring our 
entire discussion to a head. 

If mechanistic or materialistic determinism is correct 
(and in the last resort all determinism tends to be mecha- 
nistic and materialistic), then certain very surprising and 
disconcerting consequences follow. If such a view is correct 
then the mind, including the will, is a part of or a function 
of the brain. Our thoughts then reflect indeed in the last 
resort they are movements of the brain, and they are de- 
termined therefore by these movements the movements of 
the brain in their turn being determined by heredity and 
environment. We think our thoughts, not because they are 
true, but because our brain passes through certain cerebral 
states, just as we entertain certain motives, not because they 
are good, but because our brain passes through certain 
cerebral states. Truth, on this view, is as much an inadmis- 
sible concept as freedom. 

This is not always seen by the ordinary mind, but the 
philosopher insists that it shall be realized. Truth is an 
inadmissible concept because the notion of truth involves 
the assumption that an idea can be tested by something 
other than the relation to the brain something that can 


convict it, for example, of being either true or erroneous. 
Now if determinism is right, our thoughts are what they are 
and cannot be what they ought to be. They are biologically 
or chemically sound, but to say that they are logically 
sound has no meaning. To say of a man's thought, conceived 
as thus determined, that it is logically correct, would be like 
affirming of a gland or a nerve cell that it was logically cor- 
rect. Hence, if materialistic determinism is right our thoughts 
cannot be "true." Now such a theory is itself a structure of 
thought; consequently it follows that what it asserts can- 
not be true. 

This argument has been pressed home with great force 
by A. S. Eddington in his lectures entitled Science and the 
Unseen World. He points out that to say even, that five 
times nine are forty-five is a "better" answer than five times 
nine are forty-seven, takes us into a realm of meanings and 
values where science and scientific method are irrelevant. 
We need not fear, he tells us, that science will explain away 
obligation and freedom. It cannot by itself explain even 
the multiplication table. In general, his position reflects the 
Kantian point of view, although without its technicalities. 


* J. W. Hudson, The Truths We Live By, Chap. IX. 

* H. W. Carr, Changing Backgrounds in Religion and Ethics, 

Chap. X. 

* William James, Psychology, Briefer Course. The Dilemma 

of Determinism (In The Will To Believe and Other 

* G. H. Palmer, The Problem of Freedom. 
J. Laird, A Study In Moral Theory. 

B. M. Laing, Study In Moral Problems, Chap. II. 

J. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, Part IV, Sec. III. 

W. B. Gibson, The Problem of Freedom (In essays entitled, 

Personal Idealism). 
W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, Chap. 



T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, Bk. II, Chap. I. 
H. Bergson, Creative Evolution and Time and Free Will. 
A. S. Eddington, Science and The Unseen World, The Nature 
oj The Physical World. 



Just as moral philosophers almost invariably believe in 
freedom of the will in some sense, so also they quite gen- 
erally believe that the goods or values which moral agents 
in their freedom realize and create, have some permanent 
significance that survives and transcends their own personal 
temporal life and fate. This belief expresses itself in two 
main ways: in the belief in immortality and in the belief 
in progress in the idea of the survival of bodily death, or 
in the idea of the perfection of humanity, or the continual 
progress of mankind in time. 

In the case of the first belief, the underlying idea seems 
to be that there is an obvious contradiction between the 
moral task and the incompleteness of the individual life. 
We have, in Emerson's words, "an instinct for perfection." 
"Man only partly is and wholly hopes to be." That which 
is actually realized in our short temporal life is but an 
infinitesimal part of what is included in the moral ideal of 
total self-realization, and unless the ethical process con- 
tinues beyond this life it is essentially meaningless and illu- 
sory. In the case of the second belief, the underlying idea 
is much the same. The individual life of moral effort ac- 
quires most of its meaning through the contribution it makes 
to an over-individual social process, in which the achieve- 
ments of the individual are both further developed and 
conserved, this over-individual process being what we call 
the progress of humanity. Tolstoy has expressed this rela- 
tion of the belief in human progress to the meaning of the 



individual moral life in a peculiarly vivid way that has re- 
mained unsurpassed. In My Confession he tells us that when 
he lost his faith in "God" and "Providence," the belief in 
progress took its place. By it he lived. It was only because 
he felt himself part of a progressive movement of humanity 
that his own individual life and efforts had any meaning. 
When he lost his belief in progress the meaning of life faded, 
and he found himself, at fifty years of age, in a state of 
doubt and despair, from which he emerged only aft^r he had 
thought his way through to a restatement of his former be- 
lief in Divine Providence, which his temporary belief in 
progress had displaced. 

A complete study of the philosophical implications 
of morality would require an examination of both the postu- 
lates of immortality and progress. Kant, whose general way 
of thinking we have taken as our starting point, believed in 
both. There are reasons, however, why it seems desirable 
to confine ourselves to the question of moral progress. In 
the first place, the fundamental ideas underlying both con- 
ceptions have much in common. In the second place, limits 
of space exclude an adequate treatment of both, and it 
is much better to treat one problem fully than both in a 
sketchy fashion. Moreover, the problem of progress is more 
in the center of present-day thought, and the problem of 
immortality takes us more deeply into difficult questions of 
metaphysics. The student interested in the philosophical 
aspects of ethics will do well to pursue this latter inquiry 
further, and references for that purpose are given at the end 
of the chapter. 


Moral progress seems to be demanded by our moral sense. 
The very essence of the moral life is progress in the sense of 
movement from the lesser to the greater good, from the 
lower to the higher. In this sense the moral life of the indi- 


vidual was looked upon by the Greeks, especially by Aris- 
totle, as a progress or development. And indeed any teleo-. 
logical theory whether that of happiness or self-realization 
must see in the progress or movement towards that end 
the essence of the moral life. 

The Greeks did not, however, have our sense of and be- 
lief in human progress as a whole. That came in first with 
the Christian view of the world. It is a characteristic idea of 
Christian thought, both as regards the individual and so- 
ciety. The moral ideal being conceived as infinite, the moral 
life is apt to be regarded as a progressus ad infinitum. 

In more recent times the belief in progress has tied itself 
closely to the belief in evolution. The three sources of this 
modern belief, according to Bury, are Darwinian evolution, 
the perfectionism of the French Revolution and the Hegel- 
lian philosophy. Of these three the most influential in popu- 
lar thought is evolution. Darwin himself sounded this note 
of modern thought when, in concluding The Origin of 
Species, he said: a As Natural Selection works solely by and 
for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endow- 
ments will tend towards perfection." Just as for the opti- 
mism of the nineteenth century the principle of laissez- 
jaire, or free competition, was believed to lead necessarily 
to a just distribution, so for this same optimism evolution 
was supposed to necessarily imply progress. All of which 
led Herbert Spencer to his famous dictum, that "the law of 
progress is the most certain of all facts." 
It is the fashion for the moment to decry this entire 
belief in necessary progress. And yet there seems to be some 
sort of logical relation between belief in a moral ideal and 
belief that it is being progressively realized in the world. 
The moral ideal, in any of its forms, seems to require belief 
in two things. The first of these is the idea of an increasing 
purpose, however dimly apprehended by man. Tennyson 
wrote, "And I doubt not through the ages one increasing 


purpose runs" and it seems true that if one does come to 
doubt this larger purpose, he comes also, in the long run, 
to doubt the significance of human purpose also. But this 
increase of purpose and value seems logically to imply some- 
thing else the element of permanence or conservation, of 
imperishable value. When one tries to think through this 
idea of increasing purpose, one comes to see that there can 
be no genuine increase without the retention, or conserva- 
tion, in some form, of the goods or values already /achieved. 
The alternative of this is futility. The Greek symbol of 
futility was the picture of Sisyphus trying to carry water in 
a sieve, or of continually rolling a stone up a hill only to 
have it roll back again. Writing on this very topic of prog- 
ress, the philosopher Renouvier asks: "Do we offer any real 
consolation to Sisyphus by promising him annihilation, even 
if it is coupled with the promise of successors capable of 
lifting the old rock higher and still higher up the fatal 
slope? By offering him the eternal falling of this rock and 
successors who will be eternally annihilated and endlessly 
replaced by others?" 


We may then, perhaps, say here what we said of the 
postulate of the freedom of the will: the task of philosophy 
is not to prove human progress but to interpret it. It may 
not be true that the law of necessary progress is the most 
certain of all facts, in precisely the sense in which Herbert 
Spencer understood the term fact, but it is certain to the 
extent to which the moral life itself is real and its values 
valid. It is a postulate so immediately implied in the moral 
life itself that it has the same kind of evidence. 

In the second place, it seems idle to deny that there has 
been human progress in some meanings of the word. It is 
as certain as that there has been evolution of life. One can- 


not read the facts of biological life without seeing in them 
changes of the type we call evolution or development. No 
more can one read the facts of the historical life of man 
without seeing in them changes of the type we call progress. 
To the ordinary man it seems absurd to deny that there 
has been progress in some aspects of human life in science, 
invention and in institutions of various kinds. The question 
is merely whether there has been progress in the whole of 
life, whether there has been moral progress in any genuine 
or ultimate sense. 

In view of these considerations, our problem is then 
rather ( i ) what is the nature of that progressive change in 
human life and institutions which is demanded if the moral 
life is to be significant and meaningful? and (2), what is the 
evidence in history for or against such progress? The first 
we shall treat under the head of the Criterion of Moral 
Progress and the second under the head of the Evidence for 
Moral Progress. 


The term progress is used loosely for any sort of con- 
tinuous change towards a terminus, end, or ideal. It is 
opposed to regress, or change in a reverse direction. The 
general term progress is then qualified in various ways, as 
when we speak of biological, economic, or moral progress. 
Thus it is generally thought that we have economic prog- 
ress wherever there is increased command over the forces 
of nature for purposes of production, combined as it gen- 
erally is with increased intelligence in utilizing the product 
for purposes of consumption. Such economic progress is 
undoubtedly a part perhaps an indispensable part of 
human progress as a whole; but is not in itself necessarily 


moral progress. In general, moral progress must include the 
idea of advance towards perfection in some sense, or the 
realization of the moral ideal, however it may be defined. 

The distinction between the type of progress apparently 
demanded by morality and other types of progressive change 
is then rather clearly made and generally recognized. It 
would be generally admitted that biological progress does 
not necessarily include moral progress. Progressive adapta- 
tion to environment, development from simplicity to com- 
plexity of organization, are not necessarily progress, unless 
we assume that complexity has in itself a higher value than 
simplicity an assumption for which there is no real ground. 
Again economic progress, in the sense of elaboration of the 
means of production or of the instruments of life, does not 
necessarily mean increase of moral good. Not only is it pos- 
sible that " wealth may accumulate and men decay," but it 
is also possible that the mechanisms of life may get out of 
hand, that "things may be in the saddle and ride mankind.'' 
All this is fully recognized, and with it the fact that the 
criterion of moral progress must be found elsewhere. 

Popular thought finds this criterion in the two notions of 
happiness and character. Are men happier now than they 
have been in the past? If so there has been progress. Or are 
men "better" than in the past? If so there is progress. In 
these two terms are implied obviously the two ethical ideals 
of happiness and virtue, and progress is determined by the 
degree of advance towards these ideals. 

Now there can be no question that there is an element of 
truth in these popular notions. If social changes were pro- 
gressively accompanied by increasing unhappiness we could 
scarcely speak of moral progress. Or again, if with social 
changes men became progressively worse, deteriorated in 
character, we could still less speak of human progress. But 
it is quite evident that in themselves these are unsatisfac- 
tory and inadequate criteria. It is easy to say that men are 


happier now than they were in primitive or even barbarous 
times, but it is extremely difficult to show that it is so. 
Pleasure and happiness are too subjective and relative to 
measure in any fashion; and to one who said that primi- 
tives, untouched by civilization, are happier than ourselves, 
it woui. 1 be hard to make a convincing answer. The insuper- 
able difficulties, recognized by Bentham, in adding the hap- 
piness of different subjects, make the use of happiness as a 
criterion of progress impossible also. It is likewise easy to 
say that men are better or more virtuous now than in earlier 
times, but for every evidence in that direction we are forced 
to admit the existence of other facts that point in a contrary 
direction. Civilization creates new virtues, but it also begets 
new vices. It is, accordingly, only when we pass from the 
subjective states and characters of individuals to the con- 
sideration of the norms or principles on which men are ex- 
pected to act the codes of duty and ideals of virtue that 
have grown up among us that we gain any firm assurance 
of progress. 

When we do pass to this more objective standpoint, we 
shall find, I think, both a satisfactory criterion and one for 
which empirical evidence can be brought. We may properly 
ask, whether the historical development of humanity dis- 
closes any trends in the direction of increasing and estab- 
lishing the objective conditions of self-realization whether 
in short, this movement is in the direction of "nobler modes 
of life, with sweeter manners and purer laws?" If this may 
be answered in the affirmative we have moral progress. 


The general position of historians and students of human 
culture may be described in the following way: The evi- 
dence for moral progress, in the sense that we have defined 
it, is not such as to demonstrate it but only to make it highly 


The reasons for the difficulties we find in establishing 
trends that may be definitely described as progress are two- 
fold. In the first place, there is the difficulty already con- 
sidered of the choice of the criterion. The criterion we have 
now accepted, although in the very nature of the case not 
so limited and definite as those in the narrower fields of 
biology and economics, is nevertheless objective and definite 
enough for our purpose. But there is also a second difficulty, 
namely the question of time. The historic time in which 
human progress is to be detected is to the time of biological 
evolution as five minutes are to twenty-four hours. Writers 
such as Havelock Ellis and Wiggam make much of this 
fact, pointing out that, when seen in a cosmic perspective, 
human evolution is too short to enable us to establish trends 
of the definiteness and constancy characteristic of biological 

Both of these difficulties are real and ought not to be 
minimized. Nevertheless, it is possible, I think, to formulate 
the problem in such a way as to answer the question whether 
there has been moral progress with a reasonable degree of 
certainty. Any theory of progress would have first of all to 
establish trends in history in the institutions, laws and 
ideals of men and then seek, by some critical standard of 
comparative value, to determine whether, or how far, the 
direction of these trends corresponds with an upward move- 
ment in the scale of values. We have already our scale of 
values. We have also established certain trends in history in 
our studies in preceding chapters. It remains to bring these 
two together. 

Stated in this fashion, the question whether there has been 
moral progress or not, is answerable, and I think answer- 
able in the affirmative. If we assume the scale or system of 
values worked out in an earlier chapter a and if we keep in 

1 Chapter VIII. 


mind the development of modes of life and laws to establish 
and conserve these values, we shall get, I think, an over- 
whelming impression of an upward movement and of a gain. 
From this point of view, the "progressive standard," spoken 
of in a previous chapter, becomes highly probable if not 
certain; and scepticism of moral progress becomes almost as 
gratuitous as the scepticism of standards themselves. 

We might take our evidence for this contention from any 
phase of morals we have studied for instance, from the 
fields of rights and justice. He would be hypercritical in- 
deed who did not see in the development of the principle of 
freedom, however formal and ineffective it may be at times, 
progress in the sense that we have defined it. To deny that 
the passage from status to free contract is moral progress, 
that the movement which transfers justice from the hands 
of the individual and the social group into those of society 
is a forward movement, would require considerable temerity. 
We shall, however, pass over evidence of this general sort 
and turn our attention to two specific fields of evidence: 
(i) the history of the two institutions we have studied, 
those of Property and the Family, and (2) the history of 
the Moral Ideal as expressed in the development of our 
concepts of character and of the virtues. 


In our historical sketches of these two institutions we in- 
sisted that an unbiased study of their development gives 
us an overwhelming impression of a progress and a gain. 
One would be hard set indeed to prove that men are hap- 
pier, or have more pleasure, in a society in which the norms 
of property are acknowledged, than in one in which 
property right in our sense had not yet emerged. But one 
would also have difficulty in proving that the modern man 
in his office, with the limitations which our modern life en- 
tails, has more pleasure than the primitive man roaming 


widely and eating and drinking without restraint. It can be 
shown, however, that with the development of the institu- 
tion of private property, and of laws for its protection and 
control, the moral values, both of security and of self- 
realization, have been furthered, and the conditions for 
the realization of values, both organic and hyper-organic, 
increased. More than this, in the relatively short period of 
the historical development of the institution, there are many 
evidences that the true relations of the values of property 
to the other values of life are being increasingly realized. 
The persistent movement in the direction of just distribu- 
tion, of extending the area of the values of property the 
ever-increasing recognition both by conscience and in law, 
of the subordination of property to personality are facts 
the meaning of which cannot be gainsaid. 

The situation is similar in the case of the family. Here, 
too, if we apply the criterion we have chosen, we can not 
escape an overwhelming impression of a moral gain. The 
pleasures of the sex life are possibly keener among primi- 
tives than in the case of civilized man. The laxity of morals, 
in our modern sense, which accompanies earlier forms of 
family organization, may conceivably be interpreted as 
greater freedom than is possible under modern restraints. 
But if we grant the conception of moral value as self-reali- 
zation, with all that it implies, the achievement of the 
permanent monogamous family, with its norms and laws, 

must be looked upon as progress. Even in the relatively 
short period of the historical development of this form, there 
appear to the discerning eye evidences of real progress. If 
the principle of treating every individual as an end in him- 
self, and never as a means to an end, may be taken as a 
valid ethical norm, then even in the short historical period 
between the classical and modern times, progress in that 
direction is evident. 

The society of modern Christendom, it is needless to say, 


is far enough from acting upon that norm, but in its con- 
science it recognizes the principle as it was not recognized 
in the ancient world. The legal investment of everyone with 
legal rights makes it impossible for anyone whose mind is 
open to the claims of others to ignore the wrong of treating 
a woman as the servant of his pleasures at the cost of her 
own degradation. Though the wrong is still habitually done, 
it is done under a rebuke of conscience to which a Greek of 
Aristotle's time, with most women about him in slavery, 
and without even the thought (to judge from the writings 
of the philosophers) of an ideal of society in which this 
should be otherwise, could be sensible. This sensibility 
could only arise in consequence of a change in the actual 
structure of society through which the human person, with- 
out distinction of sex, became the subject of rights. If all 
this is not moral progress, it is very difficult to understand 
what we can possibly mean by the term. 

All this may be summarized in the following statement. 
The evidence for moral progress is to be found in the gen- 
eral tendency which we have elsewhere described as the 
spiritual and ideal trend in institutions. 1 As man's individual 
and social needs have become more developed and refined, 
as they have become more and more controlled by reflec- 
tion, the functions of the institutions have become more 
spiritual and idealistic. We may state the situation in still 
another way. We may ask the question, what has been the 
direction of human evolution? And to this it is scarcely 
possible to give any other answer than the following: it has 
been in the direction of socializing, of humanizing and of 
rationalizing the life of man. If this does not constitute 
progress, then all the conceptions of the good and of the 
good life that we have developed must be completely 

1 Chapter XIII, p. 302. 



Still more vivid is our impression of moral progress when 
we study the history of the ideal of the good man and of 
our notions of the virtuous life. Here again we should find 
difficulty in proving that individual men are better than 
they were, let us say among the Greeks, or even in e.arlier 
stages of development better, that is, in the sense that 
they more constantly and consistently do what they think 
is right, better in the sense of increase of good will. But 
that is only because comparisons of that sort are, in the 
very nature of the case, impossible. What is clear, however, 
is that the idea of what is right, of what constitutes the 
good will, has increasingly broadened and deepened. There 
is no respect in which moral progress can be more clearly 
seen than in the deepening views men are led to take, not 
only of their duties but of their virtues. 

This has been illustrated in a masterly manner by T, H. 
Green in that part of the Prolegomena to Ethics in which 
he contrasts the Greek with the modern conceptions of 
virtue. He takes up the two most prominent virtues recog- 
nized by the Greeks, courage and temperance, and shows 
how in modern times both the range of their application has 
been extended and the conception of the principle on which 
they rest has been deepened. With regard to temperance, 
for instance, he observes that the Greeks limited the appli- 
cation of this virtue to questions of food and drink and 
sexual intercourse; whereas in modern times we apply it to 
other forms of self-denial. He points out, moreover, that 
even with regard to those particular forms of self-indulgence 
which the Greeks recognized as vicious, the principles on 
which they rested the claim for self-denial were not so deep 
as ours. There is no place at which this appears so clearly 
as in the conceptions of virtue and vice connected with the 
life of sex. Granting as valid the ethical basis of the family 


developed in an earlier chapter, there can scarcely be any 
question that the movement of history has in the main been 
in the direction of its acceptance and realization. Despite 
some signs to the contrary, here, if anywhere, movement 
has been in the direction of "nobler modes of life, with 
sweeter manners and purer laws." 


In our answer to moral scepticism we attempted to show 
that the notion of a progressive standard is the only con- 
ception that could have authority. For our present purpose 
we may put this in another way. Morality presupposes the 
authority of conscience. But any real authority of conscience 
is possible only if there is moral progress. In this sense also, 
progress is a postulate of morality. But this notion of a pro- 
gressive standard creates certain difficulties, and these we 
must now examine. 

The illustration which we took of such a standard was 
the development from the wild man of Borneo, through the 
stage of nationalism, to the larger conception of a total 
humanity. In this development we discovered both con- 
tinuity of underlying idea and increase of comprehensive- 
ness, both of these ideas (of conservation and increase) 
being necessary to the idea of progress. But while to the 
deeper-seeing eye there is this progress, to those who live 
in a period of change and forward movement there is often 
nothing but contradiction and confusion. Indeed we may 
say that it is these very contradictions between our cus- 
toms and laws and the ideals not yet realized these inner 
contradictions in our moral universe, that constitute the 
driving forces of moral progress. 

In the period of passing from the institution of slavery 
to its complete abolishment, in the nineteenth century, 
there were certain transition stages which were marked by 
moral confusion and contradiction. When in the early part 


of the century the traffic in slaves on the high-seas was 
abolished by Great Britain and other leading nations, there 
were some, as for instance Spain, who still countenanced it. 
In this transition also the United States, while it outlawed 
the importation of slaves, still permitted coastwise traffic 
and the sale of slaves within the country. To the unthink- 
ing man the whole situation was one welter of confusion and 
hypocrisy. Those who still owned slaves and saw no evil 
in the custom, at the same time were often loud in their 
clamor for punishment of those who still imported them 
and thus broke the law. These were, of course, the birth 
pains of a new era, or the growing pains of progress, and 
they were far from pleasant. 

It is for reasons of this sort that men have the greatest 
difficulty in establishing trends of progress or regress in 
their own times. Is the abolition of trade in intoxicating 
drink progress or regress? Whichever it may turn out to be, 
it has produced precisely the phenomena that attended the 
first steps of the abolition of slavery conflict, confusion 
and hypocrisy. The sight of legislators publicly maintaining 
the law and violating it in private is not a pleasant one. 
The presence of wholesale corruption and bribery is fright- 
ening the wide-spread confusion of mind as to what is 
right and what is wrong is dangerous to a degree. But it is 
at least comforting to know that the present situation merely 
repeats, on a large scale, the same moral and political phe- 
nomena which attended the abolition of slavery. All prog- 
ress arises out of contradiction, and if we are, perhaps 
without our knowing it, in a forward movement of humanity, 
the present situation is precisely what we should expect. 


The empirical evidence, when rightly approached and 
rightly interpreted, does then seem to indicate that there 
has been a moral progress in humanity, that man has, as we 


say, come a long way ; and there seems to be good hope that 
in the future he will tread greater roads still. "The progress 
in which we had perhaps too readily believed/ 7 to use the 
words of Ferrero, "is not altogether a delusion.' 7 

But evidence for progress in the past has not been held 
by moral philosophers to be sufficient in itself to give mean- 
ing and validity to the moral life. The "law of progress" of 
which Herbert Spencer spoke, was conceived of, not merely 
as a generalization regarding the past, but as in some sense 
a prevision of the future as something that characterizes 
the entire life of humanity, the social and historical process 
in time, much as the law of gravity characterizes the phys- 
ical world, and as evolution characterizes the cosmic 

It is quite common now to speak with scorn of this belief 
in "necessary progress, " in a principle of progress which, as 
it is said, "would push things forward as automatically and 
inevitably as the principle of gravity pulls things down- 
ward." There is, it is said, no evidence for such a law of 
progress. We can no longer believe in progress as a fact, but 
only as a possibility. Such possibility of progress is, how- 
ever, all that the moral life requires. 

In considering this present attitude critically it is neces- 
sary to make certain important distinctions. If by jact is 
meant trends of progress in the past, there is, we have seen, 
good evidence for progress in that sense. What is meant 
here is that we have no evidence for progress in the future. 
Here all we have is possibility. 

Now there is obviously no empirical evidence for a law 
of progress that includes the future also. No one can say 
with any certainty that the progress which we seem to see 
in the past will not begin to slacken "to-morrow/' or per- 
haps has not already begun to halt. We may be going back 
without being aware of it. But no one can say with certainty 
that the sun will rise tomorrow. So far as empirical grounds 


are concerned, there is no evidence that today is not the last 
day of mortal life on this globe. The point is that there is 
no empirical evidence for any principle that is universal, 
that includes the future as well as the past. If we believe in 

what is called the principle of the uniformity of nature 
that everything that happens in the future will have a cause 
or, as we say, be governed by law it is not because we have 
any empirical evidence that this will be so. It is rather be- 
cause we know that, if it is not so, physical science or knowl- 
edge is impossible. The situation is in principle the same in 
the case of the postulate or "law" of progress. If we believe 
that progress is necessary, it is only because we know that 
if it is not, moral effort is in the end meaningless and futile. 
Many historians believe that history is impossible if 
there is no progress. By this they mean that unless we can 
find some general drift or tendency (towards a terminus or 
end) we cannot write history, but have merely a chronology 
of events. The essence of history is interpretation that is, 
finding meaning in the temporal events; but meaning does 
not exist if there is no evolution or development. Human 
history is then a progressive development in some sense; 
otherwise it is u mere sound and fury signifying nothing." 
The assumption that history does signify something under- 
lies all writing of history, and this is the same thing as saying 
that it is a progressive development in some sense. This is 
assumed either explicitly or implicitly by most historians. 


Every theory of social action is, H. J. Laski has truly 
said, a philosophy of history. With equal truth it may be 
said that any philosophy of history is a theory of the nature 
and direction of human progress. 

The philosophy of history which has had most influence 
on the moral life and thought of recent generations is un- 
doubtedly that of Karl Marx. It is called the Materialistic 


philosophy of history. Marx believed in necessary progress, 
and he also believed that the direction of that progress could 
be determined. The two fundamental ideas of the Marxian 
philosophy of history are (a) the principle of economic de- 
terminism, and (b) that human history is in the direction of 
the increasing concentration of capital, and ultimately, 
through the intensification of the struggle between capital 
and labor, to the abolition of private property and the estab- 
lishment of a socialistic society and state. 

There can be no question that this theory of human prog- 
ress has helped us greatly to interpret our present economic 
life. Despite certain errors of which we shall speak pres- 
ently, "the development of the world has been sufficiently 
like his prophecy to prove him a man of very unusual pene- 
tration, but has not been sufficiently like to make either 
political or economic history exactly such as he predicted it 
to be." The "margin of error" in Marx's theory makes itself 
apparent at several important points. The increasing con- 
centration of capital he predicted has taken place, but it has 
been offset by an increasing distribution, through various 

means, of this same capital to millions of small share- 
holders. The intensification of class war which he foresaw 
has not taken place in the measure predicted. It has been 
moderated, not only by the phenomenon just described, but 
by the fact that the very prediction itself brought to men's 
consciousness a set of facts which men, being free ceatures 
with rational selection, have consciously done a great deal to 

A certain limited power of prediction was then, despite 
the serious margin of error, possible on this theory of his- 
tory. In so far as the purely economic side of the process 
was concerned, trends could be predicted because, as we 
have repeatedly seen, the economic process, when viewed as 
abstracted from the total life of man, is itself largely me- 
chanical. But such prediction becomes wholly impossible 


when what are called the "imponderables" of human life 
enter in. The chief of these imponderables is precisely the 
fact that the very laws, on the basis of which we predict, are 
themselves altered when we become conscious of them. 

Such facts, however, make impossible such a theory as 
that of Marx's, either as a conception of progress or an ulti- 
mate philosophy of history. Any adequate philosophy of 
history must allow more fully for the place and function of 
consciousness and its ideals as historical "causes." Economic 
systems determine to a degree both institutions and ideals, 
but ideals modify and determine economic systems. It is 
equally clear that a process, such as that described by Marx, 
could 'not be progress in any moral sense of the term. From 
such purely economic changes we can no more infer moral 
progress necessarily, than we can infer it from the move- 
ment from simplicity to complexity which characterizes the 
process of evolution in the biological world. 


It is unnecessary at the present time to press the argu- 
ment against this materialistic philosophy of history. It is 
generally recognized, by both historians and economists, 
that the theory of economic determinism does violence to 
the facts of human history. Its valuable contributions are 

not denied. From the standpoint of history, the value of the 
principle of economic determinism has shown itself in the 
fact that we can understand political institutions better if 
we see them in relation to economic conditions. From the 
standpoint of ethics, its value has consisted, as has already 
been pointed out, in the fact that the moral life of man is in 
a very real sense conditioned by his economic life. But when 
all this is admitted, it still remains true that ideas and con- 
scious purpose are true causes. As Laski says, "Ideologies 
produce economic systems, just as economic systems pro- 
duce ideologies. The communist emphasizes the second but 


he is too little willing to see the possible consequences of 
the first." It is even probably true that Marx himself recog- 
nized the limits within which his theory applied. In any 
case, an economic philosophy of history must be supple- 
mented by an idealistic. 

Idealistic philosophies of history emphasize the role of 
ideas in history, both as causes of historic movements and 
as the means of interpreting the significance of these move- 
ments. In a broad way, philosophies of history have in gen- 
eral been idealistic. But in modern times they are mainly 
the product of Kant and the post-Kantian philosophy, espe- 
cially that of Hegel. Karl Marx himself was a pupil of Hegel 
and got his idea of a philosophy of history from that source. 
It was really the Hegelian idea turned upside down. 

According to the idealistic view, history has no meaning 
unless it is viewed as a progress more particularly a moral 
progress. Progress, in its turn, has no meaning unless it is 
viewed as the realization of certain ideals and values in the 
temporal life of men, both in individuals and in institutions. 
Those who hold this view are in no doubt as to what these 
ideals or values are. Various terms have been used to char- 
acterize them, but all mean in the end the same thing. The 
meaning of history is sometimes said to be the development 

of human personality to the highest point. It is said to be 

the self-forming of humanity and, since this self-forming 
means self-determination, the history of progress is, in 
Hegel's words, the consciousness of freedom. It has been 
said to be the development of the spiritual content of life, 
the attainment of a standpoint from which every individual 
wills in accordance with social and over-individual values. 
From the point of view of our present discussion, the differ- 
ence in terms signifies little, for all mean in principle the 
same thing, namely an upward movement in the scale of 
values which we have found to be normal to the valuing 
consciousness of man. 


This then, according to this philosophy of history, is the 
meaning of the historical process. It is important also to 
realize that some such conception of history is inescapable 
to anyone who does not accept the materialistic theory with 
its economic determinism. These are the ideals or values 
that are the ultimate driving forces of history. 

It is becoming increasingly clear to historians themselves 
that it is really impossible to write history without some 
philosophy of history, some theory of progress expressed or 
implied. We may suppose, as historians, that we are, as we 
say, merely describing the facts. But the moment we select 
our facts from the infinite number of actual happenings we 
select them according to some assumption as to their "im- 
portance" or significance; and this requires the further as- 

sumption that history is moving to some end or goal. Most 

historians select their facts without any clear consciousness 
of the assumptions underlying the selection. The more crit- 
ical and self-conscious become aware of what they are really 
doing, and then develop a philosophy of history. Economic 
interpretations of history select their facts on the basis of 
one assumption. Cultural and spiritualistic interpretations 
on the basis of another. Which of these principles is ulti- 
mate, or, if they are both present in the historical process, 
how they are related, is not the problem of the historian but 

of the philosophy of history. 1 


There remains still a problem to consider without which 
this entire philosophical discussion of ''progress" would 
be wholly incomplete. It is quite possible that the reality of 
progress may be the necessary postulate of the moral life 
if it is to have an ultimate meaning. It is quite possible that 

student interested in these questions will find a suggestive and 
valuable treatment of this subject, in F. M. Fling's The Writing of History, 
especially Chapter VII. 


human history may give us an impression of a progress and 
a gain. But the postulate may be ultimately an illusion, 
and the impression merely an impression which a wider 
scientific perspective would correct. 

There are certain thinkers who hold that the idea of con- 
tinuous human progress is such an appearance and illusion. 
In proof of their position they appeal to what is supposed 
to be a fundamental fact or law of the physical universe 
the law of degradation of energy as it is called. According 
to this law it is supposed that, like a clock, the energy of the 
universe is running down, and that we can predict with cer- 
tainty, or at least with a high degree of probability, that in 
a future, far distant to be sure, the heat radiated from the 
sun will have become dissipated throughout the universe, our 

earth will become cold, the conditions of life will disappear, 

and life itself, with all its values and ideals, vanish without 
a trace. We are even told that we must build our lives on 
"the firm foundations of despair/' a despair which such a 
view is supposed to make inevitable to a sensitive mind. 

An outstanding representative of this position is the his- 
torian, Mr. Henry Adams. In a well-known book, 1 he tells 
us that "the universe has been terribly narrowed by thermo- 
dynamics." Already history and sociology "gasp for breath," 
The life-blood of history (and of all the humanistic sciences) 

has been the postulation of a law of progress. For Henry 
Adams, however, the acceptance of this law of thermo- 
dynamics of the principle of the degradation of energy, 
with its implications of a universe that is running down 
means that there can not be progress, increase of value, in 
any ultimate sense, and that, therefore, the postulate upon 
which, not only moral effort, but all historical interpreta- 
tion of moral effort is based, is an illusion. 

Professor Bury, in his book on The Idea of Progress, takes 

1 The Degradation of Democratic Dogma, p. 261, 


this situation into account. "As time is the very condition of 
the possibility of progress/ 7 he writes, "it is obvious that 
progress would be valueless if there were any cogent reasons 
for supposing that the time at the disposal of humanity is 
likely to reach a limit in the near future." But he thinks that 
there is no incompatibility between the law of progress and 
the law of degradation, because the possibility of progress is 
guaranteed by the high probability, based upon scientific cal- 
culation, of virtually infinite time to progress in. This view 
is, however, little satisfying to most thinkers. From a purely 
pragmatic point of view, it is undoubtedly true that the idea 
of progress would still "appeal to our emotions," as Bury 
says, even if we knew that in the end it would come to 
nothing, provided the debacle were far enough off. But it is 
doubtful whether such progress would have any ultimate 
value to our moral reason. It would have been, after all, 
really an illusion, an "impression of progress," as one writer 
puts it. The reality behind the illusion would be a steady 
diminution of value, ending finally in universal death. Even 
if the possibility of progress is guaranteed for myriads of 
years to come, the certainty of ultimate failure would dwarf 
those years into insignificance. There is one thing that re- 
mains forever intolerable, though its realization was thought 
of as thousands of myriads of years distant; it is the thought 
that humanity with all its intellectual and moral toil will 
vanish without a trace, and that not even a memory will be 
left in any mind. The drafts which we make on our moral 
postulates cannot be estimated in years, however loosely we 
play with them. The "world bank" is the one bank of which 
it may be said, that if it is ultimately insolvent it has always 
been so. 

The problem here is in principle similar to that presented 
in our examination of the postulate of free will. There the 
question was, does scientific knowledge make the postulate 
of freedom impossible? Here the question is, does scientific 


knowledge make the postulate of progress an illusion? Our 
answer must of necessity take lines similar to those which 
we followed in the preceding case. What does science say on 
this question? What does philosophy? 

An adequate answer to these questions would require 
much more far-reaching study than we can give here. Only 
suggestions are possible. So far as science is concerned, it 
may be said, however, that the position here described is 
now recognized to have been based on premises that are not 
necessarily true. Briefly, it was assumed that the principle 
of degradation which holds for limited energy systems, could 
be extended to the world system. And it is now recognized 
that such an extension is, to say the least, doubtful. The 
present state of physics in this matter is unsettled, and a 
satisfactory discussion of the pros and cons of the question 
would take us too far afield. It must suffice to say that the 
entire inference, or prediction as it is sometimes supposed 
to be, seems to rest upon (a) the assumption that the uni- 
verse is infinite and that the energy of the universe is lost 
in infinite space; and (b) that there are no other sources of 
energy as yet unknown. Both of these assumptions are at 
least questionable at the present time, and this so-called pre- 
diction is in no sense one that can be brought to the bar of 
empirical evidence. 

Philosophers naturally approach the question from a dif- 
ferent standpoint, and insist upon taking into account a 
larger range of facts and ideas. They are likely to insist 
upon the fact that physical science is built upon an abstrac- 
tion, and to suggest, with Lotze and others, "that we should 
not credit as a prophetic announcement with regard to the 
future, the ingenious calculations which draw conclusions as 
to the final state of the world from our experimental knowl- 
edge of the economy of heat." They are inclined to insist 
upon the symbolic character of physical science, that we 
must not take these symbols too seriously and infer from the 


"degradation of energy" the degradation of the world- 
system as well. They are inclined to think that, "to pretend 
to speak for the universe in terms of the narrow and ab- 
stract predictions of physics and astronomy, is to betray a 
bias of mind that is provincial." 1 

The general position may, perhaps, be summed up in the 
following way. Our actual knowledge is not of such a char- 
acter as to disprove the possibility of progress. The postu- 
late of progress, in the sense of increase and conservation 
of values, is, however, so basic to the moral life that we are 
justified in making it a pillar in our philosophy of life and 
the world. 


Scepticism regarding moral progress is more or less the 
fashion now-a-days. It is but part of the general wave of 
moral scepticism that has spread over the world since the 
World War. 

In so far as it constitutes a reaction against fatuous 
notions of progress in which we too easily believed, it is a 
healthy sign. Disillusionment concerning the automatic 
progress brought about by science and invention, was about 
due, and was even necessary, if intelligent notions of prog- 
ress were to be possible. But the scepticism and the reac- 
tion may easily go too far and result in ideas equally unin- 
telligent and misleading. This has happened, I think, in the 
now popular slogan, that progress is not a fact but only a 

In the first place, we have lost our faith in progress much 
too easily. Tolstoy lost his faith as a result of two events 
that made a great and lasting impression upon him, the 
death of his brother in great agony and the witnessing of 

1 R. B. Perry, Present Tendencies in Philosophy, p. 347. 


an execution in Paris. "I understood, not with my reason 
but with my whole being, that no theory of progress could 
justify those happenings." Many have become sceptical for 
no better reasons, their scepticism being a matter of emo- 
tional reaction, rather than of reason and weighing of 

In the second place, many have taken up with the idea 
that progress is only a possibility and not an actuality, with- 
out considering sufficiently what is involved in such a no- 
tion. 1 It is obvious that the idea of an automatic progress, 
when conceived mechanically, takes the life out of moral 
effort. Marx was once asked why, if he held that capitalism 
must necessarily break up and pass over into socialism, he 
should make such emotional appeals to the proletariat as in 
the Communist Manifesto. The same result would come any- 
way. His answer was sincere enough: I don't know. Per- 
haps the process n\ay be hastened a little. On the other 
hand, it is just as true that it is difficult to work for human 
progress, if that progress is not somehow in the very nature 
of things. In any case, those who have worked with the best 
wills are those who believe that their labor is in line with 
some nisus or drive in the very heart of things with some 
power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness those, 
in short, who "doubt not that through the ages some increas- 
ing purpose runs." Why this is so we shall see more clearly 
in the next chapter. 

'This idea has been expressed by many men and in many forms. Only 
recently it has been given popular expression in an address by President 
Glenn Frank before the University of Wisconsin, in which he contrasted 
the new liberalism with the old liberalism. The old liberalism was 
characterized by the dogmas of universal intelligence, of automatic prog- 
ress, the dogma of freedom through scientific inventions. The new lib- 
eralism discards all these dogmas. So far as progress is concerned, "it is 
not automatic. It is a difficult achievement. It is a car to ride in, a 
campaign to be carried on by prophets, pioneers, teachers, etc." 




* J. S. Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chap. VII. 

* L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, Part I, Chaps. I, II, and 

F. Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, 

Vol. I, Chap. IX. 
P. Kropotkin, Ethics, Origin and Development. 

* T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics, Bk. Ill, Chaps. Ill, V. 
J. H. Muirhead and H. J. W. Hetherington, Social Purpose. 
W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, etc. 

J. Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, Part IV. 


* F. S. Marvin, Progress and History, The Unity of Western 


* J. H. Randall, Jr., The Making of The Modern Mind, Chaps. 


F. Urwick, A Philosophy of Social Progress. 

J. B. Bury, A History of the Idea of Progress. 

* J. A. Thomson, What Is Man? 

W. M. Urban, The Intelligible World, Chap. XI. 


Plato, Phxdo. 

Kant, Critique of the Practical Reason, etc. 

* J. H. Hudson, The Truths We Live By, Chap. VII. 

G. Lowes Dickinson, Is Immortality Desirable? 
William James, Human Immortality. 

*B. H. Streeter and Others, Concerning Immortality, Chap. 


Hugo Miinsterberg, Eternal Life. 
G. T. Fechner, Life After Death. 
J. Royce, The Conception of Immortality. 
Tolstoy, On Life. 

B. Bosanquet, The Value and Destiny of the Individual, 
Chaps. IX, X. 




Moral philosophers have always recognized the close rela- 
tion of morals to religion. No one familiar with the history 
of mankind can doubt that these two phases of our experi- 
ence constitute the warp and woof of a web of human life 
and culture which it is extraordinarily difficult to disen- 
tangle. But while all are agreed as to their close relations, 
not all are at one as to the necessity and inner nature of 
these relations. There are some who believe that this age- 
old connection will in time be severed and who, like the 
philosopher Guyau, foresee an "irreligion of the future." 
There are others and these perhaps the greater number 
who hold that such expectations are without foundation, 
and that the close historical connection between religion and 
morals corresponds to an inner, necessary, logical relation. 
This belief has been expressed in various ways from the 
beginning of philosophical thought. In the terms of Kant, 
the existence or reality of God is a necessary postulate of 


The nature of the historical connection is abundantly 
clear. Morality has uniformly appealed to religion for its 
authority and sanctions. Among primitive peoples custom is 
the lord of all their life, and these customs are almost uni- 
versally referred to divine beings for their origin and sanc- 
tion. Looking back, we may think to find their source in the 



more lowly exigencies of utility and survival, but to the 
moral subjects themselves their origin was divine and to this 
origin they attributed their authority and validity. The 
situation is no different in principle when we come to the 
level of development characterized by codified law. It is not 
an accident that the great historic codes of law, such as those 
of Moses, of Solon, of Lycurgus or of Zoroaster, while 
"given by" individuals, are thought to have their ultimate 
source in the will of God. Even when laws, both moral and 
legal, have come to be recognized as "laws of nature," they 
are still thought of as laws of God the creator of nature 
and to have an authority which no legal enactments of man 
can affect. Finally, on the reflective level the voice of con- 
science is felt to be the voice of God, and the instinct for 
perfection within us a witness to that "perfect being," or 
God, from whom it comes. In the words of Emerson, it is 
"the fine innuendo by which the soul makes its immortal 

This connection between morals and religion on the re- 
flective level leads us to the recognition of another aspect 
of their general interrelation. If morality has constantly 
appealed to religion for its sanctions, it has at the same 
time fexercised a constant criticism on religion^ Religion in 
its primitive forms was not only often unmoral, but distinctly 
immoral from the standpoint of later levels of morality/ 
There is scarcely a crime or a vice for which religious sanc- 
tion has not at some time and in some place been claimed, 
and the pictures of the gods men have formed at one stage 
of their development arouse their indignation and shame at 
a later period. Xenophanes' ridicule of the anthropomorphic 
and immoral conceptions and stories of the Greek gods is 
but a special case of a constant tendency in all the great his- 
toric religions. Nietzsche expressed this vividly in his famous 
epigram: "He who loveth his god chasteneth him" ^nd it 


is true to this extent that those who love God the inspired 
prophets of the more ethical religions are constantly chas- 
tising and purifying men's ideas of God* 


The general conclusion to be drawn from this brief sur- 
vey of the historical connections of morality and religion 
is, that in all probability they are in some way dependent 
upon one another. Let us see if we can express this inter- 
dependence in a way that will bring out their true relations. 

The dependence of morality on religion, although real 
enough, has sometimes been stated in ways that can scarcely 
be maintained. It is sometimes said that (for a man to be 
moral he must also be religious) that is, that there is a nec- 
essary psychological relation between the good will and be- 
lief in God./tt is, however, easy to point out that there are 
many people who do their duty 4 and are naturally good and 
decent who have very little religion or none at all) {& is also 
possible to point to people who are religious but not very 
morai^The truth is, of course, that a large part ofynoral 
conduct is a matter of social convention and of social habit 
and sentiment) Even if morality and religion were in some 
way inseparably connected, it would be psychologically pos- 
sible for morality and the feeling of moral obligation to con- 
tinue, both in the individual and in society, long after belief 
in a religious basis of morality had passed. It would be pos- 
sible for men to live on the acquired values of the past. It 
is doubtful whether this independence of morality of religion 
is possible in the long run, but it is certainly T 1 ?* tr t1fi tn * a y 
that a man cannot be good without hoing religions. 

It seems probable, then, that in some subtle and obscure 
way morality is in the long run dependent upon religion in 
the broadest sense of the term. It seems also that in a very 
real sense religion is dependent upon ethics or morals. It is 


quite possible that religion and religious beliefs may grow 
up relatively independent of moral conduct and sentiment. 
One of the undoubted sources of religion is the fear or awe 
of the human mind before the great forces of nature. Again, 
there are those who see in(giagic the main source of religion^ 
and these will insist upon the non-moral character of much 
of religion. All this is true, but when we turn from the 
obscure and difficult questions of the origin of religion, to 
the clearer and more certain field of its historical develop- 
ment, we see this dependence quite clearly manifest. The 
gods of men, when they emerge out of the mists of primitive 
origins, are already quite evidently the embodiment of their 
moral ideals, as well as the origin and sanction of their cus- 
toms and codes. In the developed religions, moreover, the 
whole tendency is to slough off the non-moral elements and 
to make of Deity the embodiment of the highest ethical 
ideals of mankind.? 

We seem forced to the conclusion then that the relation 
of morality to religion is a much deeper one than that sug- 
gested either by anthropology and history or by psychology 
that it is not merely an age-long connection between 
moral tabu and divine sanction, nor yet merely associa- 
tions fixed by the pressure of social convention and educa- 
tion, but a logical relation which becomes clearer and clearer 
as we reflect on the assumptions or postulates of morality. 

The kind of dependence I have in mind may be shown in 
the following way. Nietzsche has somewhere remarked that 
"the disappearance of the idea of God deprives the ideas 
of equality and justice of all justification." What Nietzsche 
means by this is, that the very ideas (ideals or norms) of 
equality presuppose that the world is a moral order, and not 
merely an order of "nature." Nature, as such, knows noth- 
ing of equality and justice. If there is not a moral order, 
transcending the order of nature, then there is no logical 
justification for these ideas. Obviously Nietzsche is here 


merely saying in a negative way what Kant and others have 
put in a more positive form namely that the fundamental 
ideas of morality as we know it imply for their justifica- 
tion the idea of God. 

Here, as at many points, Nietzsche saw more clearly than 
many of his contemporaries. Nietzsche believed that the 
idea of God was dying if not dead. What he wanted to do 
was to hasten its death. As a radical aristocrat, and a be- 
liever in the idea that the good is identical with power, he 
hated all ideas of equality and justice. He wished to deprive 
these ideas of all justification, and to erect new tables which 
would give a romantic justification to the ethics of force. 
These he saw were inevitably bound up with the atheistic 
view of the universe. 

We may say then without hesitation, that the interdepen- 
dence of morality and religion is not merely a psychological 
and historical relation, but one that is essentially logical in 
character. What is meant by this may be expressed in the 
following way. When we think out what is implied in moral 
conduct and moral judgments, we are led necessarily to a 
view of the world or universe which is, in principle at least, 
the same as that which is held by reflective religion. In other 
words, we are led to postulate the reality of what the reli- 
gionist calls God. 

Baron Von Hugel has put this relation in the following 
way. "Everyone who believes fully in anything at all, be it 
the obligation to truthfulness, in the more than utilitarian 
worth of his wife's or daughter's chastity, even in the more 
than empirical worth of natural science, believes that these 
things are part of a moral order" and, as he continues, "in 
the more than human character of this moral order." The 
belief in God in so far as it is a moral postulate amounts 
to this. Not only is it possible for humanity to realize its 
highest purposes in the world, but more than this, the world 
is so predisposed as to realize them; not a blind and external, 


but an inner purposeful necessity prevails in it; the natural 
order of the world is at bottom a moral order. Atheism 
would be the denial of such a faith not of its demonstra- 
bility merely, but of its legitimacy; it would be the dogmatic 
assertion that there is ho moral, but only a natural order of 
the world. 


These relations of morals and religion have been traced 
without any attempt to state just what religion is. But it is 
very important to make clear just what we mean by religion 
if we are to decide with any degree of certainty whether 
morals do imply religion whether, if we think out what is 
implied in moral conduct and judgment, we are led to postu- 
late the existence of the object of religion, or God. Whether 
we accept this line of argument or not, depends largely upon 
what we consider religion and God to be. 

Now religion is one of the most difficult of all terms to 
define. The term is so general, the phenomena it covers so 
Varied, that its meaning must inevitably be vague and hard 
to define. Yet we must, in the first instance at least, find 
some definition that will be broad enough to cover the most 
varied manifestations*, When the question is approached 
from this angle, the definition arrived at is usually of the 
following general nature/Religion is the sense, or feeling, of 
dependence upon higher beings or powers^ 

This we will call our first definition of religion. And it 
does seem to cover, in a way at least, all the cases of religion 
we might be called upon to consider from the lowliest 
primitive grovelling before his fetish, to the philosopher 
Kant in awe before the starry Heaven above and the moral 
law within from the fleshly love of the savage for the power 
that makes his cows fat and his wives fruitful, to the intellec- 
tual love of Spinoza for a purely philosopher's God.Qt is 


because of this element of the feeling of dependence that 
many people hold that the essential of religion is prayer, 
although prayer may itself vary from self -centered petitions 
to a wholly selfless oneness with the DivineT) 

But the mere feeling of dependence is not the whole of 
religion. When we examine this attitude more closely we 
see that something more is implied than is explicit in the 
definition. The sense of dependence is always there, but it is 
dependence on a higher power for something for the good 
things and the bad things of life, and ultimately for all those 
things which we call values. 

In the case of the primitive man, the goods or values, for 
the source and the preservation of which he feels his de- 
pendence, are naturally only the primitive and bodily goods 
of life the bodily values of which we spoke in an earlier 
chapter. The securing of food; mating and the making of a 
home; the training of children and the communal activities 
of the tribe connected with these functions (and with the 
preservation of the tribe itself, through fighting) these are 
the goods in connection with which this dependence is felt. 
Writing of the Todas, W. H. R. Rivers says: "The lives of 
the people are largely devoted to their buffaloes . . . the 
ordinary operations of the dairy have become a religious 
ritual and ceremonies of a religious character accompany 
nearly every important incident in the lives of the buf- 
faloes." x 

This is religion on its lower levels. It is chiefly the primi- 
tive goods or values which men seek of their gods and for 
the preservation of which they seek divine aid. Prayer, 
which is in a sense the essence of religion, is at this stage 
wholly petitionary, and the petitions are wholly for goods of 
the kind described for fruitfulness of herds and fields, for 

. H, R. Rivers, The Todas (New York, 1906), p. 16 and p. 38. 


the fruitfulness of the women, for valor for the men in war 
and for victory over the enemies of the tribe. As man ad- 
vances in his sense of values, it is of the higher values that 
he chiefly thinks. He comes to pray more for "spiritual" 
than for physical good, and often prayer ceases to be a mat- 
ter of petition at all, but rather of communion with the 
source of all good. But the feeling of dependence on higher 
powers for the values of life remains the constant element 
in all forms of religion, from the lowest to the highest. 

This general characteristic of religion has been expressed 
by Hoeffding in his statement that religion is belief in the 
conservation of values. This we may take as our second 
definition. No more than the first, does this definition com- 
pletely exhaust the nature of religion which, by the very 
reason of its relation with every aspect of our nature, can 
be exhausted in no single definition, and in this sense is then 
ultimately indefinable. It is, however, the definition of re- 
ligion which brings out most clearly its relation to ethics, 
and it is with this relation that we are here concerned. 

We have repeatedly seen that this principle of conserva- 
tion of values comes into play constantly in our moral ex- 
perience and thinking. One of the principles which deter- 
mines our choice of one value over another, is that the 
permanent should be chosen over the transitory. Conserva- 
tion, permanence, is a demand growing out of the very 
nature of value. Again we saw that it is difficult to give any 
meaning to the life of moral choice and effort, whether in the 
individual or the race, except on the assumption that there is 
progress or development towards perfection. But a part of 
the idea of progress is the conservation of the values already 
achieved. If the moral life were simply gathering water in a 
sieve, or rolling a stone up a hill, merely to have it roll back 
again, it would be essentially futile. 

These things being so, it is only natural that part of the 
moral reason of man should be postulation of the conserva- 


tion of values. It is only natural also that belief in this con- 
servation of values which is the very heart of religion 
should bring religion very close to ethics. 


One more point is to be considered before we leave this 
question of the nature of religion. In the first definition we 
find religion defined as a sense or feeling; in the second as a 
belief. Now belief also contains an element of feeling; but 
as we examined this particular belief in the conservation 
of values more closely, we found that, when thought out, it 
involves also an element of reason. 

This point is of the utmost importance. It is quite com- 
mon nowadays to say that religion is a matter of feeling. 
This is said equally by those who value religion and those 
who depreciate it. The latter, by making it merely a matter 
of feeling, suppose that they may thus place it beyond the 
pale of rational and scientific discussion and make of it a 
matter of merely personal opinion. The former suppose that 
by removing it from the sphere of reason, they may save it 
from criticism and free it from the obligation of making any 
appeal to reason. 

Both points of view are essentially fallacious and both 
are due to the same false assumption, namely a narrow con- 
ception of reason which identifies it with scientific method 
and abstracts it from the total life of man. Religion, on the 
reflective level at least, must include the reasoned judgment 
that the world, in which our values are and are to be realized, 
has a certain character or order. Not only must it be pos- 
sible for humanity to realize its highest purposes in the 
world, but the world must be so predisposed as to realize 
them. In it must prevail, not a blind or external force, but 
inner purposeful necessity. This is a matter of reason, not 
of feeling. 


The close "logical" relation between morals and religion, 
developed in the preceding paragraphs, has been made the 
basis in philosophy for one of the classical arguments for 
the existence of God. It is called the argument from con- 
science, or the moral argument. The force of the argument 
is expressed by Wordsworth in his Ode to Duty, when he 
apostrophises Conscience as: 

"Stern Daughter of the Voice of God! 
O Duty! If that name thou love 
Who art a light to guide, a rod 
To check the erring, and reprove ..." 

This idea that conscience is the voice of God, a witness 
in man of a moral order that transcends him is as old as 
philosophic thought. We find it in Socrates' idea of the 
Daimon within him, so beautifully developed in Plato's 
Phaedo. We find it in the Stoics and finally in Christian 
theology and philosophy, especially that of St. Thomas. 
The moral argument, thus developed from the nature of 
conscience, is a part, as it were, of the philosophic reason of 
the Western world. 

Historically this moral argument was merely one strand 
in a tightly woven argument by which it was felt that the 
human reason could reach beyond the human to the Divine. 
It was held that reason could go beyond the human and 
the relative in several ways, but this was felt to be the chief 
way. Later, under the influence of criticism, it came to be 
thought of, as in Kant, as the only way. Let us examine this 
argument first and then consider its relation to other argu- 

The essentials of the moral argument in its simplest 
form is that conscience is a witness to the Divine; that 
our consciousness of moral values, as embodied in our sense 


of obligation or duty, in our acknowledgment of claims or 
rights, and in our ideal of self-hood or character, reflects a 
moral order that transcends the merely natural order, and 
which implies that both its origin and its consummation is 
in the Divine. In other words, conscience requires, both for 
the explanation of its ultimate origin and the interpretation 
or justification of its meaning, the postulate of the existence 
of God. 

This argument, as we have seen, was historically more or 
less bound up with the formalistic theory of morals and the 
intuitionist theory of conscience. It is easy to see that if 
one believes that moral sense or moral axioms are innate, 
in the crude sense of inborn, one would naturally think of 
them as "implanted" in us, as it were, by the "Creator." It 
is also easy to see that if one holds, as did Kant, that the 
moral imperative is categorical and absolute and cannot be 
derived empirically, either by associations in the life of the 
individual or by natural selection in the life of the race, he 
would naturally look to some transcendental source for its 
explanation and interpretation. It is natural, therefore, for 
the student to think that this argument is bound up with 
formalism and intuitionism, and that with the criticism of 
the latter the argument itself looses force. Such an inference, 
although natural, is nevertheless erroneous. The argument 
is equally implied in a teleological or perfectionist view, as 
indeed Kant himself saw. 

We may say then, without hesitation, that the moral 
argument is independent of any particular ethical theory of 
the nature and locus of the good. The real doubts regard- 
ing it arise from a quite different source. It is the empirical 
and evolutionary account of conscience which raises the 
question as to whether it witnesses to any reality beyond 

In an earlier connection, the question was asked: Do we 
destroy conscience if we make it a relative and historical 


reality? We have now a parallel question: Do we destroy 
the force or validity of the moral argument, from conscience, 
if we make of it a relative and historical reality? There can 
be no doubt that many think that this necessarily follows, 
just as many think that the evolutionary theory in general 
removes all necessity for any doctrine of creation. On the 
other hand, there is an increasing number of thoughtful men 
who do not believe that this is so. That which impresses 
them about our morality is, not so much its relativity as the 
continuity running through that relativity, and the progres- 
sive standard" which the study of the historical process dis- 
closes. That which impresses them about man's conscience 
is not so much its functional relation to changing levels of 
social development, as its increasing witness to values that 
transcend himself. From these facts they find it difficult to 
infer anything but a power, not ourselves, that makes in- 
creasingly for righteousness, and an objective moral order 
of which our conscience is becoming increasingly aware. 
In other words, conscience corresponds to something in the 
objective environment of man to which it is difficult to give 
any other term then the well-worn but meaningful name 
of God. 

The line of thought I have in mind has been expressed by 
William James in a simple, and perhaps somewhat crude 
way. Like many others in the past, he is impressed with the 
universality of the religious "instinct." He thinks that it 
would be passing strange if, it being true that wherever 
there is a fundamental drive or instinct in man, there is an 
objective correlate for it in the environment, there would be 
no such object for an instinct so universal and fundamental 

as the religious. In other words, it seems irrational to sup- 
pose that nature should evolve so useless, superfluous and 
illusory a thing. On such pragmatic principles it seems in- 
conceivable that the "instinct for perfection" in man should 
have no reality to which it corresponds. 


Since William James's time this same line of thought 
has been clarified and developed by a number of thinkers, 
until it may be said to constitute a really new statement of 
the old moral argument. I choose for presentation of it here 
a statement by Lord Balfour, although the same argument 
has been developed by many others. These men are im- 
pressed with the superfluous, useless, and illusory character 
of a large part of human values (including the moral values), 
on the hypothesis that they are the products of a merely 
naturalistic evolution. In their primitive forms, the moral 
sentiments are, perhaps, the products of natural selection. 
But "they have," as Balfour says, "by a kind of internal 
momentum, overpassed their primitive purpose. Made by 
nature for a natural object, they have developed along lines 
which are certainly independent of selection perhaps in op- 
position to it." This momentum, this nisus or drive in nature, 
which has produced not only Hamlet and the Ninth Sym- 
phony, but the Sermon on The Mount, is what we mean by 
God. For Balfour, not only is it difficult to maintain values 
in a Godless universe, but even more difficult to understand 
them. "Ethics," even to be understood, "must have its roots 
in the divine and in the divine must find its consummation." 


The moral argument or more broadly stated, the argu- 
ment from values, in its modern form passes over neces- 
sarily into a causal argument or an argument that involves 
the question of ultimate origins. Historically, as we have 
seen, the argument from conscience was but one strand in 
a tightly woven argument by which human reason felt it- 

self bound to the divine. Men were impressed with the fact 
that the idea of God, or of a "perfect being," was present in 
the human mind at all. It did not seem possible to such 
minds as those of Plato and Aristotle, of St. Anselm and St. 
Thomas, of Descartes and Leibnitz, that such an idea could 


be the "fictitious" creation of finite man, but could be 
explained only as coming from God himself. They were 
impressed with the demand of reason for a first cause, that 
should contain "eminently," as it was said, all the reality 
contained in the effects. You cannot get the "more" out of 
the "less," and only a Supreme Being, such as is conceived 
under the notion God, can really explain, or make intelligi- 
ble, the origin and development of this universe with all its 
order and law. Moreover, the very order and adaptation 
found in the universe are evidences of purpose, and the idea 
of purpose is inseparable from intelligence or mind. It was 
the latter argument, from purpose or "design," as it was 
called, that weighed chiefly with the ordinary man; and it 
has been the weakening of this argument, not only by the 
criticism of Kant, but also as the result of evolutionary ideas 
in biology, that has led men chiefly to abandon the tradi- 
tional line of arguent and to fall back upon the argument 
from conscience or from values. 

This body of arguments called the Theistic Proofs 
remained relatively constant and impregnable until the scep- 
ticism of the eighteenth century. Both Hume and Kant put 
into final form a doubt of the validity of these rational argu- 
ments for the existence of God which had been gradually 
growing in men's minds since the development of modern 
physical science beginning with Gallileo. Kant himself, who 
believed profoundly in the existence of God, found himself 
forced to the conclusion that these famous historical argu- 
ments, which had been developed by the theoretical or logi- 
cal reason, contained certain logical fallacies that made them 
untenable. In this respect, then, Kant's position was one 
of scientific agnosticism. He held that the merely scientific 
reason of man could not prove the existence of God, al- 
though he also held that it could not disprove it. On the 
other hand, he maintained that there is another side to man's 


nature and reason, the moral or practical, and that the evi- 
dence here is positive. 

What has present-day philosophical thought to say on this 
question? It is not easy to answer this without going more 
extensively into philosophical and metaphysical thought than 
is possible in the limits of this chapter. It would not be un- 
fair to say that this position, which we may describe as 
Kantian, is a very common one among thinking people to- 
day, and one held by many of the more philosophically- 
minded scientists. The distinguished electrician, Steinmetz, 
and the physicist, Millikan, have both expressed them- 
selves publicly in this sense, and one finds in general this 
position implied in the pronouncements of many scientists 
when they venture upon questions of religion. Needless to 
say, many philosophers hold this position. On the other 
hand, there are large groups of philosophers who hold that 
the essentials of these historic proofs have never been ac- 
tually refuted, but merely the forms in which they had been 
stated prior to Kant. When properly understood and restated 
in modern terms, they are still valid. Many others, espe- 
cially the idealists who followed Hegel, believe that modern 
idealism gives us a more profound point of view from which 
these arguments can be reinterpreted and shown to be 
partial approaches, or rather perhaps partial aspects, of a 
more comprehensive and all embracing argument. At the 
same time that we establish the ultimately spiritual char- 
acter of reality, we are establishing a philosophical basis 
for religion and belief in God. 

The present writer believes that both of these con- 
tentions are true, namely that the historic proofs have not 
actually been refuted, and secondly that they may be re- 
interpreted from a more profound point of view. This whole 
problem involves, however, more advanced knowledge in 
philosophy than can be here assumed. The student interested 


in these questions will want to explore these fields of thought. 
Here we shall leave the question, and turn to a considera- 
tion of these same general questions under the less difficult 
head of the relation of religion to science. 


The object of this chapter has been primarily to show 
the relation of morals to religion, how and why the existence 
of God has been supposed to be a necessary postulate of 
ethics in short to develop this aspect of the philosophical 
side of ethics. But having started on this line of thought, 
our study would be incomplete if we did not include in our 
study some reference to the bearing of the natural sciences 
on this problem. As we found it impossible to discuss the 
postulates of freedom and progress without reference to the 
views of science as to the nature of the physical universe, 
so it is equally impossible to discuss the problem of the 
existence of God without reference to the assumptions and 
the results of the physical sciences. 

In the earlier history of physical science it was quite 
generally held that the existence of God could be argued 
from the the facts and laws of the universe disclosed by 
science itself. Thus Newton, the founder of modern physics 
and cosmology, not only believed in the existence of God 
but that his existence could be argued from the necessity of 
an intelligent First Cause. It is still true that in the main 
those scientists that deal with the physical world alone are 
more or less inclined, like Newton, to the idea that the order 
and law manifest in the universe witnesses to some intelli- 
gence that is more than human. It is primarily naturalistic 
evolution, as we have defined it, that has seemed, at least to 
many, to weaken this view. It is true that on this question 
biologists and evolutionists generally have also differed 


widely. Thus Lamarck was as deeply convinced as Newton 
that God was the "first cause" of evolution, while Darwin, 
though made doubtful by his conception of the universe 
which the doctrine of "chance variations" seemed to imply, 
was merely agnostic in the matter. In the main, however, the 
general effect of older views of naturalistic evolution was in 
the direction of seeming to make the idea of God super- 
fluous. In brief, what seemed before evolution to be ex- 
plainable only on the assumption of a designing or purposive 
intelligence, seemed explainable now by merely natural 
causes, such as natural selection acting on chance variation. 

To be sure, there were many thinkers including many 
biologists themselves, who, like "Lamarck, did not believe that 
natural explanations of the transformations of species made 
unnecessary the postulate of God/ A common way of ex- 
pressing this was to say that/evolution is the description of 
a method of creation and does not make unnecessary the 
idea of a creative and directive activim But it remained true 
that, so long as evolution was conceived in the way com- 
mon to the thought of the nineteenth century, the gen- 
eral tendency was to create the impression that, so far as 
the theoretical reason is concerned, the notion of God had 
become superfluous. It is the change in our notions regard- 
ing the nature of evolution itself that has recently changed 
the situation in a significant way. 

This entire problem has been put into a new setting by 
the changing views of evolution itself. The "changing back- 
grounds" of ethics of which Carr speaks constitute also 
changing backgrounds for religion. The tendencies which 
we have observed in "Creative Evolution" and "Emergent 
Evolution" towards the recognition of a level of mind (in- 
cluding self -hood and sociality as relations of selves) not 
reducible to lower levels have at the same time brought 
with them a tendency to reconsider what must be the nature 


of the reality or process which shows this tendency or nisus. 
In any case we may say that there are many evolutionists 
who, far from finding evolution as now understood inimical 
to the belief in God, rather find, like C. Lloyd Morgan, the 
idea necessary in order to make the evolution process, as 
now understood, intelligible. In an earlier connection we 
noted the fact that present-day scientists and philosophers 
differ on this point. Some think of the values that appear 
on the higher levels of development as emerging with the 
human and disappearing if the human passes away. On the 
other hand, many believe that these values have a more 
than human significance that throughout the entire course 
of evolution there has been an upward tendency, not only 
towards organization, but towards the creation and develop- 
ment of values. To believe this is, of course, to regard the 
world order as in some sense purposive or teleological, and 
that is to bring the old teleological argument back in a mod- 
ern form. But it is also to hold that values are in some way 
implicit in the entire process. In which case one can hardly 
avoid thinking of the nisus or tendency to organization, and 
to the creation of value, as evidence of an Intelligent Mind, 
in other words, God. In this case we have what is called 

Theistic Evolution. 1 

This is perhaps as far as we may profitably go in any at- 
tempt to present the present situation in science and philos- 
ophy. Further discussion would take us too far into the 
technicalities of the subject. To the general question, as to 
what science and philosophy has to say on the question, we 
may answer without hesitation that the general drift of 
thought is in favor of greater open mindedness towards 
those religious conceptions of life and the universe that 
receive their inspiration from the moral and spiritual life of 

1 Chapter VI, p. 132. 



But what, it may well be asked, is to be understood by 
the Divine or Deity thus seemingly postulated by morals? 
As we investigated the general relation of morals to religion 
before defining religion, so we have now attempted to give 
the force of the moral argument without defining clearly 
the notion of God, whose existence, according to this argu- 
ment, is said to be implied by morality. 

With the raising of this problem we are brought face to 
face with a very interesting situation in present-day thought. 
At the beginning of our study we pointed out that, while 
there are some who would dissociate morals from religion 
and believe that religion will become superfluous, by far the 
greater number of philosophers recognize some necessary 
relation between the two, not only historical and psychologi- 
cal, but logical as we have defined the term. Indeed the num- 
ber of those who feel this is increasing rather than diminish- 
ing. But with the increasing sense of the dependence of 
morals on religion of some sort, there is also an increasing 
uncertainty, both as to the nature of the religion demanded 
by ethics and as to the character of Deity (if Deity is neces- 
sary), required by moral faith and endeavor. There are those 
who believe that a religion without a God is possible and 
that such a religion is adequate for the moral life. There 
are others who, while they believe that morality demands 
religion, and that religion without a God is inconceivable, 
yet define God, or present us with conceptions of God, so 
different from those which have ordinarily characterized re- 
ligion in its higher and more developed forms, that we are 
often in doubt as to whether we are really talking about the 
same thing. 

The first position can be dealt with rather briefly. The 
idea of a religion without a God seems and I think rightly 
something of a contradiction in terms to the ordinary 


mind. And yet, since there are thinkers who actually pro- 
pose such a conception, it is worth our while to try to under- 
stand how it is possible. Those who hold this view at the 
present time call themselves Humanists. While differing in 
some ways from the "religion of humanity" of Comte, who 
sought to substitute the worship of humanity for the wor- 
ship of God, modern Humanism is in principle the same. 
This position has developed out of two main sources. On the 
one hand, the study of psychology and the social sciences 
has impressed many with the ineradicable nature of re- 
ligion, as a basic element in the psychic life of the individual, 
and as pragmatically a most important element in the social 
life of man. On the other hand, modern science, or what 
Walter Lippmann calls the "acids of modernity, 77 seem to 
them to have eaten God out of the universe and left him 
only as a creation of the heart of man. 

The peculiarly religious aspects of religion seem scarcely 
possible on such a conception. Worship of something that 

we know to be only our own creation, even if it be social 
rather than individual, is hardly conceivable. It is likely that 
if men do sincerely worship such a creation, such worship is 
really but a survival of older habits, or else in the moment 
of worship the object is really conceived as objective or 
transcendent. Nor do the ethical demands for which re- 
ligion is postulated, seem to be any better satisfied. Not only 

can man not pray to such a conception, .but it is doubtful 
whether it can afford the valor which the moral life demands. 
Humanism seems to be like a man who wants to have a 
watch without the mainspring that makes it go. 

Let us turn now to those who, while not proposing a re- 
ligion without a God, yet think of God in such a way as to 
make him quite other than the being that has been postu- 
lated by ethics and worshiped by religion in the past. 
Definition of what is understood by God is really important, 
for there can be no question that the developments of the 

last century have brought subtle changes in the ideas of 
many. There are those for whom evolutionary thinking has 
inevitably led to naturalistic and pantheistic conceptions of 
God. Many scientists now think of God as purely imper- 
sonal force, somehow inherent or immanent in the evolu- 
tionary process. Thus in a recent questionnaire on the re- 
ligious views of scientists, few confessed themselves as athe- 
ists, but many admitted a purely impersonal conception of 
God. On the other hand, there are those, even among pro- 
fessed religionists, who think of God as a purely finite 
being, a part of nature, evolving as the rest of nature evolves, 
and a fellow struggler with us in the fight for truth, justice 
and beauty in short the values of life. 

It is not my purpose here to enter into these discussions 
over the nature of God, except in so far as the question of 
ethical postulates is concerned. Now it may be said, I think, 
that so far as the historical and psychological, relations be- 
tween morals and religion are concerned, it is probable that 

morals can be associated with almost any idea of God, if 
only the sense of dependence and the belief in the conserva- 
tion of values is there. Certainly the history of religions 
seems to show that this is so. On the other hand, it seems 
equally clear that logically the higher developments of mo- 
rality are not consistent with any and every conception of 
God. The same necessities of reason that compel us to 

clarify and purify our notions of the good, compel us also 
to change and purify our notions of God if He is implied 
by the good. He who loveth his God chasteneth him. 

That the higher developments of morality demand con- 
ceptions of Deity freed from the moral limitations of lower 
levels, has already been made clear. It seems equally clear 
that the grosser anthropomorphisms in our notions of God 
cannot withstand the purifying flame of the highest moral 
sense. But it is equally true that the higher reflective moral- 
ity does not consort well with inadequate notions of God. 


When once we realize that morality and moral relations are 
functions of the unique relations between persons in a hyper- 
organic social order, we can scarcely get much religious back- 
ground for morality out of a conception of God which makes 
him merely the Life Force, still less from one that thinks 
of him merely as an all-pervasive energy. The God of the 
higher moral levels must be conceived as Mind, and prob- 
ably as Person. 

There can be no question, I think, that when we speak 
of "God" in the moral context we always have in mind a 
perfect being; perfect in the sense of possessing perfect 
knowledge, perfect power, and perfect goodness of holiness 
yes and perfect beauty, in so far as we are developed 
enough to put beauty among the highest values. This is, I 
think, what we uniformly mean by God. It is certainly what 
the highest ethical religions have always meant. It was em- 
bodied in the moral command of Jesus; "Be ye also perfect, 

as your Father in Heaven is perfect/' 

Professor J. W. Hudson insists that "the idea of God 
must mean at least these things to be of any moral value 
whatever." This is perhaps an exaggeration in that, as we 
have seen, many lesser ideas of God have been, and still are, 
of value in the history of the race. But we may say at least 
this much: the idea of God must mean these things if it is 
to be of the highest and of enduring value. For "there 
are two main ways in which an idea of God becomes of 

moral significance: first, as a moral ideal towards which 
we may strive and second, if not this, at least as a power 
that in some way guarantees the triumph of righteousness. 
If God is a moral ideal, He must be thought of as possessing 
the qualities of moral perfection; perfection in knowledge, 
in goodness, in all that we found to make the immortal ideal 
of a perfect self; if on the other hand, He is to be thought 
of as a moral guarantee, again he must in some way involve 
the same indispensable moral characteristics, as the very 


source of the moral order that requires them. No being save 
one that means reason, goodness, beauty and power in their 
perfection can guarantee the triumph of such things in the 
world." 1 

It seems likely also that when we speak of God in a moral 
context we must also think of him in some sense as a person. 
The relations which religion conceives of as existing between 
man and the Divine are in themselves essentially personal, 
and to make them intelligible the Divine, as well as the 
human, must be personal. But there is a still stronger argu- 
ment. If we admit any distinctions of value in the universe 
at all, any higher and lower, it seems impossible to doubt 
that the level of the human, with its characteristic category 
of self and personality, is the highest attained in the evolu- 
tionary process. It seems equally impossible to doubt that 
if there is a God at all, he cannot be less than personal, 
less than that which nature or the universe produces. God 

may indeed be supra-personal, more than that contem- 
plated by our ideas of persons, but he certainly is not less. 

Every serious thinker is of course more or less afraid of 
this term, which might seem to imply that he pictures the 
Deity in a too anthropomorphic form. And yet the thought- 
ful man must agree with Professor A. S. Eddington, that 
the reaction against the personal conception of God is un- 
sound. He will agree that it is of the very essence of the 
unseen world that the conception of personality should domi- 
nate it. Force, energy, dimensions belong to the world of 
symbols; it is out of such conceptions that we have built up 
the external world of physics. What other conceptions have 
we? After exhausting physical methods we return to the in- 
most recesses of consciousness. 2 

The conception of God seemingly demanded by the de- 
veloped moral consciousness of man is the traditional no- 

1 The Truths We Live By, p. 164. 
8 Science and the Unseen World, p. 82. 


tion which means merely that it is that idea of God which 
has been worked out in the long experience and thinking of 
the race. The modern man may have difficulty with this con- 
ception. He may have his difficulties in thinking of God as 
a person. He may have even greater difficulties in thinking 
of him as perfect and as all-powerful. But it should be re- 
membered that, although there are special sources of dif 
ficulty in the knowledge and life of today, the same diffi- 
culties have, in principle, always been present, and all the 
great thinkers have been conscious of them. So far as our 
present task is concerned, we have sought to show merely 
why the existence of God has been thought to be postu- 
lated by morality and the notion of God seemingly neces- 
sitated by the more developed moral consciousness. The 
further problems raised by this discussion must of neces- 
sity be left to more advanced courses in philosophy. 



* E. S. Brightman, Religious Values y Chaps. II, IV. 

* W. K. Wright, The Relation Between Morality and Religion 

(In Essays in Philosophy, edited by T. V. Smith and W. 
K. Wright). Also A Student's Philosophy of Religion. 

* H. Hoeffding, Philosophy of Religion, Chap. IV, Sec. A. 

H. Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. Ill, Chap. II. 
J. H. Muirhead and H. J. W. Hetherington, Social Purpose, 

Chap. XIII. 
Warner Fite, Moral Philosophy. 


* A. J. Balfour, Theism and Humanism. 

* Shebbeare, The Challenge of the Universe. 

* J. W. Hudson, The Truths We Live By, Chap. VIII. 

* G. P. Conger, A Course in Philosophy, Chaps. XLVIII, 


W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and The Idea of God, Chap. 

* B. H. Streeter, Reality. 

C. Lloyd Morgan, Emergent Evolution. 


J. A. Leighton, Man and The Cosmos, Bks. IV, V. 
J. Royce, The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, The Con- 
ception of God, The Problem of Christianity. 
]. Caird, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Chap. V. 
* A. S. Eddington, Science and The Unseen World. 


Adams, Henry, 441 

Addams, Jane, 44, 192 

Adler, F., 320 

Alexander, S., 108, 130 

Altruism, absolute, 152ff., 340. See 

Egoism vs. Altruism 
Anselm, St., 120 
Aquinas, St. Thomas, 54, 120, 159, 

A priori element in ethics, 175, 189, 

Aristotle, 17, 53, 54, 74, 75, 117, 

119, 121ff., 334ff., 337, 364, 423 
Arnold, Matthew, 20, 241, 403 
Augustine, St., 54, 120 
Authority in morals, 33f., 381ff., 447 

Bacon, F., 210 

Baldwin, J. M., 140 

Balfour, A. J., 30, 107f., 459 

Beauty, 165. See Esthetic values 

Behavior. See Conduct 

Bentham, J., 75, 76, 80, 91, 160, 174, 


Bergson, H., 130, 413 
Berkeley, G., 93 
Bills of Rights, 192 
Birth Control, 311 
Bode, B. H., 204 
Bollenger Baby Case, the, 41ff., 47, 

74, 95, 340, 365 
Bosanquet, B., 120, 189, 198 
Brentano, F., 378 
Briffault, R., 139 
Bury, J. B., 423, 441ff. 

Cardozo, B. N., 24, 180, 282 

Carlyle, T., 241, 280 

Carr, H. W., 95, 398 

Carver, T. N., 223 

Casuistry, 2 5 If. i 

Categorical Imperative, 59f. ' 

Cnaracter, del. of, 343; values of, 

163, 339; norms of, 341ff., 348. 

See Virtues. 

Chesterton, G., 80, 337, 410 
Christian ethics, 119, 153f., 249, 308, 

319, 326 
Clifford, L., 373 

Collectivism, 228ff. See Socialism. 
Common Sense, 30, 35, 82, 144 
Communism. 228f.. 276, 307. 322 
Comte, A., 466 

Conduct, moral, If., 15, 20, 29, 353f. 
Conklin, E. G., 112 
Conscience, 59f., 363f., 372, 379, 

456, 458 

Conventional morality, 315, 390ff. 
Cox, G. C., 237 
Cyrenaics, 75 

Darwin, C., 96ff., 130, 423, 463 

DeLaguna, T., 97 

Determinism, logical refutation of, 


Dewey, J., 93, 120, 192, 349, 360 
Divorce, 318ff. 
Durkheim, E., 210 
Duties, Chapter XI; also 62, 175, 

184f., of Property, 282ff., of the 

Family, 312f. 

Economics and ethics, 21ff,, 261ff. 
Eddington, A. S., 61, 419, 469 
Egoism vs. Altruism, 135i, 151, 153; 
conciliation of, 144ff., 230 

Ellis, Havelock, 428 

Emerson, R. W., 211, 421 

Epicureanism, 75 

Equality, 215f., 229ff. 

Esthetic values, 163, 164f., 179, 340, 

Ethics, definition and scope of, 6, 
20f. ; as a normative science, 8ff., 
353f.; and economics, 21f.; and 
law, 23f.; and philosophy, 251, 
also Chapter XV. 




Ethics of evolution, Chapter V. See 

also Evolution. 
Eugenics, 288 
Eudaemonism, 119 
Everett, W. G., 161 
Evolution, of morals, lOOff.; Socie- 

tal, 117; creative, 130, 416, 463; 

emergent, 117, 130, 416, 463; and 

progress, 423 

Family, the, definition of, 295; 

origin and development of, 296ff.; 

spiritualization of, 299f.; ethical 

basis of, 303 ff.; norms of, 312f. 
Ferrero, G., 435 
Fichte, J. G., 40, 398 
Fling, F. M., 440 
Ford, Henry, 230 
Formalism, 43, 46, 51; and intui- 

tionism, 56ff.; criticism of, 65ff. 
France, A., 383 
Frank, Glenn, 445 
Freedom, of the will, 356, 396ff., 

402 ; and responsibility, 398ff . ; 

and science, 406ff., 412; and phi- 

losophy, 413 > 

Galsworthy, J., 302 

George, Henry, 270 

God, as postulated by morals, 355, 
357; arguments for the existence 
of, 456, 459; nature of, 456ff., 
468; and evolution, 133, 462, 464 

Good, See Value. 

Goodhue, E. W., 23 

Green, T. H., 120, 339, 432 

Groos, K., 168 

Guyau, J. M., 146, 447 

Hadley, A. T., 21 
Happiness, See Hedonism. 
Hedonism, 46, 73 ; psychological, 
" 76ff.; ethicajr SlffJ^criticism of, 

Holland, T., 243, 265 
Holmes, Justice O. W., 201 
Hudson, J. W., 468 
Hume, David, 75, 460 
Huxley, Aldous, 249 
Huxley, T. H., 102ff., 110, 374 

Ibsen, H., 31, 33, 41, 68, 126, 143, 

154f., 250 
Individualism, 135, 143, 196, 221f., 


Intuitionism, 56, 366, 370f., 376f. 
Immortality, as postulate of ethics, 

357, 422 

Increment, unearned, 221, 233, 271 
Indeterminism, 402ff., 412f^ 
instincts, aEcr interests, 166f., 169f. 

James, W., 26, 80, 167, 338, 375, 

399f., 407ff., 413, 458 
Jaures, J., 275 
Justice, ethical, 211ff., 214; legal, 

211, 235; distributive, 210, 217; 

retributive, 210; theories of, 215ff., 



11 *, 

^ 89 

Hegel, G. W. F., 117, 142, 359, 4<>3, 

418, 439 

Hobbes, T., 75, 139 
Hobson. J. A., 18, 116, 264 
Hoeffding, H., 189, 454 

181, 250, 254, 328, 354ff., 368, 
371, 377, 401, 415, 422, *452, 457, 

Keller, A. G., 104, 296 

Knowledge, Moral, Chapter XVI 

Koehler, W., 101 

Kropotkin, P., 276 

Labor, rights of, 202 ff. 

Lamarck, J., 463 

Laski, H. J., 436, 438 

Law, and morals, 23f., I77ff., 235ff. 

Leibnitz, G., 120 

Lippmann, W., 466 

Locke, J., 54, 75 

Lotze, H., 443 

Macdonald, J. Ramsay, 235 
Marriage, See Family. 
Martineau, J., 253 
Maurois, A., 381 
Marx, K., 21, 262, 274, 411, 436 
Metaphysics, and ethics, 26f., 63, 
129ff., 141ff.. 413ff., 441f. 

MiU, J. S., 75, 84ff., 160 
Millikan, R. A, 461 
Montaigne, M., 333, 382 
Moral sense, 56, 83, 366 
Moral reason, 36, 57, 368 
Moral knowledge, Chapter XVI 
Moral rules, 249ff., 254, 257 
Morgan, C. Lloyd, 130, 464 
Murray, Gilbert, 151 

Natural selection (in morals), 98ff., 


Newton, R., 463 
Nietzsche, F., 34, 81, 95, 102, 135, 

I53f., 230, 379ff., 383, 388, 448, 


Norms, in ethics, llf., 29, 32, 56, 
71, 90f., 108, 160, 170f., 195, 205, 
242, 275, 309ff., 312, 353f. 

Obligation, 9f., 59f., 176, 184, 240f. 
O'Neill, Eugene, 41 

Pascal, B., 252 

Paulsen, F., 82ff. 

Perfectionism, definition, 46; nat- 
uralistic, 47, 96, 109; idealistic, 
47, 96, 116ff., 125; see also Self- 

Perry, R. B., 87, 144, 167 

Personality, See Self. 

Plato, 53, 75, 119, 333, 338, 382, 456 

Pleasure, See Hedonism. 

Pollock, F., 24, 243 

Postulates, ethical, 3S4ff. 

Progress (moral), 421ff., 434; cri- 
terion of, 425ff.; evidence for, 

Progressive standard, 384ff., 433f. 

Property, definition of, 265; history 
of, 266f.; ethical basis of, 269f.; 
norms of, 275ff.; rights of, 280f.; 
duties of, 282f. 

Prostitution, 316f. 

Rational selection (in morals), 104ff. 

Rationalization, 358f. 

Relativism (in morals), 30, 70, 199f., 
247, 330fif., 381, 388 

Religion, definitions of, 452, 454; 
relation to ethics, 26, 355; Chap- 
ter XIV 

INDEX 475 

Renouvier, C. B., 424 
Responsibility, See Freedom of the 

Rights, Chapter IX; of property, 

269, 275f.; of the family, Sl2f. 
Rivers, W. H. R., 162, 261, 453 
Roosevelt, T., 233, 236 
Royce, J., 213f. 
Ruskin, J., 256 
Russell, B., 247, 278 
Ryan, J. A., 278 

Sacrament of marriage, 308f. 

Sand, George, 365 

Scepticism, moral, 5, 381ff. 

Scholastics, 364, 368 

Scott, J. W., 412 

Self, the ethical, 112, 118, 136ff., 

.341ff., 348f. 
Self-realization, ethics of, Chapter 


Sex life, 288ff., 308 
Sexual morality, 287, 314f. 
Sharp, F. C., 38 
Shaw, B., 89, 95, 113, 229, 250, 311, 

Sidgwick, H., 73, 81, 213, 215ff., 


Socialism, 228f., 23^ 261f^ 271 
So"crates7T5, 119, 382, 456 
Sophists, 53, 119, 331, 382 
Sorley, W. R., 385 
Spencer, H., 76, 103, 108, 129, 137, 

145f., 424, 435 
Spinoza, B., 120, 307, 453 
Steinmetz, C. P., 461 
Stephen, Leslie, 108, 326 
Stoics, 54, 364 
Simmer, W. G., 35, 261, 296 

Taeusch, C. F., 332 

Taylor, H. O., 36, 397 

Tennyson, A., 142 

Thomson, J. A., 130 

Tolstoy, L., 135, I52f., 174, 310, 421 

Twain, Mark, 39 

Tufts, J. H., 192, 349 

Utilitarianism, 38, 75, 85, 90f. 


Vaihinger, H., 401 

Values, ethics as science of, 6f.; 
nature of, 16ff., 121ff., 129/360; 
classification of, 164; laws of, 
I70ff. ; system of, 159ff.;and re-' 
ligion, 453ff. 

Virtues, nature of, 32 7f.; cardinal, 
333f.; as instrumental .values, 
329f.; as intrinsic, 339f. See Char- 

Von Hiigel, Baron, 451 

, Wage, just, 276f. See Justice (dis- 

tVard, James, 103 

Wealth. See Property. 
* Westermarck, E., 101 

Wharton, Edith, 306 

Will. See Freedom of the will. 

Wordsworth', W., 456 

Wright, W. K., 92